DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Delray Beach police revealed Thursday that the search for 17-year-old Jade Beneby was based on a lie.
Beneby texted her mother Tuesday morning that she was locked in the trunk of a car. Nine police agencies searched for her across the state until they found her seven hours later at a motel in Hialeah.
Beneby will now have to participate in a juvenile justice program for lying.
One source familiar with the investigation says it cost local taxpayers nearly $100,000.
Hordes of reporters were at Jade Beneby's doorstep, her picture was flashed on television and four police detectives were assigned to full-time work to locate her.
Hers was one of four pressing matters in Delray Beach on Tuesday.
"The resources that we devoted to this case, we could have used during these three critical incidents," said Sgt. Nicole Guerriero, a Delray Beach police spokeswoman.
Delray detectives spent an hour-and-a-half interviewing Beneby after finding her in a motel in Hialeah.
"During the investigation, they found some inconsistencies," said Sgt. Guerriero.
Police wouldn't describe the contradictions, but they say her claim of abduction was a cover for skipping school that day. They said she went willingly with a man she'd met on the Internet the night before.
"The young girl texted her mother," said Andrew Scott, a homicide detective for six years in North Miami Beach and former chief of police in Boca Raton. "The question begs, well, if you're able to text your mother, is there a reason you didn't call 911?"
Scott says Delray investigators were likely gentle during their interview with Beneby, because she's a child, and because he says all good investigators start interviews under the assumption that the allegations are true.
"When the pieces of the puzzle don't fit, then the investigators dig deeper and want to question more. And the individual who is making up the story can't remember everything they've said," said Scott.
Delray Beach police acknowledge that some in the community might feel angry over the taxpayer resources used to find a girl who was telling a tall tale.
But they aren't angry, and say they'll always investigate.
"Anytime there's a case like this, we're going to come to you and ask for your help again," said Sgt. Guerriero. "We hope that you don't judge this case and use it for later on."
Beneby will have to join a juvenile justice program for non-violent first offenders that is run by the State Attorney's Office.
A jury of teens will likely sentence her to perform community service.
If she does not complete the sentence, she will automatically face perjury charges.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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