KIRKSVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A graduate student at Truman State University is facing felony forgery charges over allegations that she faked terminal cancer.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/UftW6O ) reports that Victoria Ann Marut, 22, of St. Peters, was charged earlier this month and is free on bail. Truman State police chief Thomas Johnson said the inquiry continues and additional charges are possible.
Marut was studying to be a special education teacher but is no longer taking classes.
She told colleagues and professors in June she had terminal Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, resulting in widespread sympathy. Teachers at Kirksville Primary School, where Marut was doing field work this fall, donated gift cards and meals, even hats and a wig to cover her bald head. A fundraiser was planned to help with expenses.
But principal Tricia Reger became suspicious and contacted Truman professor Peter Kelly. He required Marut to get a note from her doctor to see if she was physically able to complete her work. She produced a note within an hour, further raising Kelly's suspicions.
"Knowing how busy doctors are, that just didn't make sense to me," Kelly said.
He checked with the doctor and found out Marut's story wasn't true. She had never been a cancer patient at the hospitals she claimed treated her.
Johnson said Marut admitted to making the doctor's letter on her computer, and said she didn't have Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Johnson said she had been shaving her head in an effort to make others think she had cancer.
"The story she's giving is that she wanted attention from her mother, but I think you can probably put a period after she wanted attention," he said.
Marut's attorney, Ben Gray, declined to discuss details of the case or Marut's health, but urged people to keep an open mind.
"The allegation sounds pretty bad, and people who have experienced an illness like cancer in their family tend not to be real sympathetic," he said. "In this case I just hope people won't be judgmental because there's a lot of things going on that people aren't going to probably know about."
A preliminary hearing is set for next month.
Kelly worries about the impact Marut's actions will have on the Truman community and the staff at Kirksville Primary School.
"People in the building were remarkably generous in their support and the way they wanted to take care of her," he said. "They were taken in by her story, and I know that was a difficult thing."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com