March 2004 – Madison, WI
University of Wisconsin student Audrey Seiler was reported missing. She was last seen on a
surveillance camera leaving her apartment at
The Regent Apartments
without her coat and purse,
leaving the door open, suggesting she expected to return quickly. The disappearance unleashed a
media storm; Court TV shot a re-enactment of the incident.
Police investigated her disappearance as an abduction. An extensive search was conducted
by the Madison Police Department, UW-Madison police, Dane County Sheriff's Office, the FBI,
friends, family, and concerned area residents. A fund was established to help in the search, a
website had been setup www.findaudrey.wisc.edu
When Seiler was found four days later, about two miles away from campus, in the marsh near the
Alliant Energy Center
, she told police she had
been kidnapped from her room at knifepoint and held against her will. She told the police that the
man was still in the mash area. This set off an immediate manhunt that included sharpshooters on
Seiler reported that while being held the man used duct tape, rope, cold medicine and a knife
against her. After processing the crime scene, police found those items there, which seemed to
validate her story. But police obtained a videotape that showed Seiler going into a local
store and buying those items prior to her disappearance. Later, two separate witnesses said they
saw a person believed to be Seiler “walking freely” in different areas of the city between when
she disappeared and when she was found.
Police found Seiler's computer contained evidence of planning, including a history of search terms
for Madison wooded areas, parks, and weather conditions for a five-day forecast. Someone also used
Seiler's computer during the time she was missing.
Eventually, after police confronted her that they knew she was lying, Seiler revealed that she had
staged her own abduction to capture the attention of her boyfriend. She pleaded guilty to two
counts of obstruction for lying to investigators. She was put on three years of probation and
ordered to repay the Madison police $250 a month for three years to partially reimburse the more
than $67,000 cost of the investigation.
Seiler also had reported an incident February 1st that same year where she claimed that after she
had been out walking she was struck on the head from behind and knocked out. When she awoke, she was
alone behind a building on Bowen Court with no signs of attempted rape and she was not robbed.
later devoted an episode of their show “The Investigators” to the hoax titled
“Tracing Audrey”. Many Madisonians were interviewed including reporters, police personel and
Police Chief Noble Wray.
Local theater company Broom Street Theater
had a play in 2004 titled
“Audrey Seiler, Where Are You?
by John Sable & Directed by Dana Pellebon