Police: West Virginia man fakes wife’s disappearance so she could avoid prison

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Copyright: Associated Press

GRANDVIEW, W. Va. (AP) — A West Virginia woman and her husband faked her disappearance by pretending she plummeted from an overlook as part of a scheme to keep her out of having to go to prison, authorities said.

Julie Wheeler and Rodney Wheeler were arrested Tuesday on multiple charges including conspiracy and giving false information to West Virginia State Police.

State police said Julie Wheeler was reported missing Sunday by her husband and 17-year-old son.

The family claimed Julie Wheeler had fallen from the main overlook at the New River Gorge National River, National Park Service Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk said.

Authorities searched for Julie Wheeler for days but found her Tuesday “alive and well” hiding in a closet in her home.

A criminal complaint said Rodney Wheeler and his son planted items at the Grandview Overlook to fake Julie Wheeler’s disappearance. It’s unclear whether the son will face criminal charges.

Julie Wheeler pleaded guilty to federal health care fraud in February after an investigation into “pill mill” clinic operations. She’ll be sentenced for that charge on June 17.

It’s unclear whether the couple have an attorney who could comment on their behalf.

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