TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - A woman accused of duping residents of a small town into believing she had cancer took money raised by children who sold bracelets and friends who dyed their hair pink, police said.
Just about everyone in the village of North Baltimore had done something to show their support for Kimberlie Gustwiller, who had spent much of her life in the town and began sporting a pink mohawk after announcing she had cancer, police Chief Allan Baer said.
At least several thousand dollars had been raised, he said.
"They're devastated, heartbroken," he said. "This community was amazing."
Gustwiller, who lives in the nearby village of McComb, was charged with felony theft last week. She was released from jail Monday after posting bond. Her phone has been disconnected, and it's not clear whether she has an attorney yet.
Baer said Gustwiller began telling people in early September that she had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a broad description for a number of blood cancers primarily affecting white blood cells in the lymph tissue.
Groups held bake sales and sold stickers for Gustwiller. Football players put pink stripes on their helmets and hundreds of girls and women had pink streaks painted in their hair in exchange for donations, the police chief said.
But after a while, some people began to question her story because some of her answers about the illness seemed evasive, he said.
"Some things weren't adding up," Baer said.
A court order allowed police to look at her medical records, which showed no evidence of cancer or any other illness, he said.
Police are still trying to determine how much money was raised by the community about 30 miles south of Toledo. The amount could have been much more, Baer said.
Another benefit for Gustwiller was in the works for later this month. "We stopped it before it got huge," he said.
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