In a depressing-yet-predictable twist, the 23-year-old woman whose battered face went viral in "knockout game" hysteria last month was actually hit by her boyfriend, not randomly attacked by a stranger, police say.
St. Louis police charged 25-year-old Justin Simms, of Arnold, and his girlfriend Ashley DePew, 23, with filing false police reports after the pair insisted DePew was suckerpunched by a random thug outside the Trophy Room bar in south city.
DePew told police and KMOV-TV (Channel 4) that she may have been the victim of the violent phenomenon turned national mania known as the "knockout game," where groups, especially of teenagers, viciously attack random victims.
Chief Sam Dotson tells reporters he was frustrated to see the lie go viral even as police told reporters early on that DePew's story was inconsistent.
"We had to spend a significant amount of resources unraveling the lies they told," Dotson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "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 suffered a double fracture and needed reconstructive surgery, according to what she told friends and media.
The fake knockout narrative went like this: DePew and Simms stopped by the Trophy Room on Arsenal early on November 17 to pick up a drunk friend. The couple was separated in the crowd gathered outside, and someone stepped forward to punch DePew in the face.
"I dropped immediately to the ground and screaming and crying, and everybody just scattered," she told KMOV.
Turns out, it's all one big lie. Police say there is no evidence the couple was at the bar, and the drunk friend told investigators he never saw DePew or Simms that night, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The real story is hardly unusual, but it's still upsetting: The couple was arguing while driving when Simms angrily lashed out, hitting her in the eye, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The couple originally fed the lie to DePew's parents, who made the connection to knockout-game stories in St. Louis and other large American cities. DePew filed a police report two days later.