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Woman made up 'knockout game' story after boyfriend hit her, St. Louis police say

Woman made up 'knockout game' story after boyfriend hit her, St. Louis police say


ST. LOUIS • Police say a reported “knockout game” attack that recently attracted national attention to St. Louis is false.

Ashley DePew, 23, and her boyfriend Justin Simms, 25, were charged Friday with falsifying a police report. The pair had claimed DePew was the victim of a random attack outside a St. Louis bar last month, police said.

Police now believe she was actually injured by her boyfriend and the pair fabricated the “knockout game” story as a cover for her injury.

Dotson said the damage false reporting causes is widespread.

“We had to spend a significant amount of resources unraveling the lies they told,” Dotson said. “That’s resources that could have been spent on other crimes and it damaged the perception of the city. I hope these two individuals get help in their relationship.”

DePew told police she and her boyfriend had gone to The Trophy Room early on Nov. 17 to pick up a friend who was intoxicated, but became separated in a crowd. She said she had been punched in the eye by a group of young men outside of the bar.

She reported the alleged attack to police two days later.

But authorities say witnesses and evidence from the bar indicate the couple wasn’t there that night, and there was no attack. Police said detectives interviewed the male friend the couple claimed to have picked up. He told police he was never with Depew or Simms that night.

The woman and her boyfriend admitted on Thursday that they had fabricated the story because they feared repercussions from police and their families, police said in court documents. They told investigators that they were traveling on Interstate 55 and began arguing. When the woman tried to put her hand on her boyfriend’s, he told police, he flung it back violently, inadvertently punching her in the eye.

After going to a hospital, they told the woman’s parents that she had been punched at random by a stranger. The parents noted that the scenario sounded similar to the “knockout game,” in which groups of young teens target people at random, punching them for no reason and often not taking anything of value.

The woman’s attorney, Ethan Corlija, said before the charges were filed that he hoped his client wouldn’t be charged.

“I don’t want this to detract from the fact that she’s still a victim,” he said. “She sustained pretty serious injuries. No matter how the circuit attorney chooses to view it, it still boils down to her being a victim and we can’t lose sight of that fact.”

The woman’s story went viral after a local television station aired her story, garnering thousands of hits on Facebook, Twitter and other websites. The Post-Dispatch did not report on the “knockout game” claim at the time, pending resolution of inconsistencies in the story.

Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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Christine Byers is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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