Utah authorities have announced that they are investigating whether 38-year-old Holly Courtier faked her disappearance in Zion National State Park as scheme to raise money on the popular charitable website GoFundMe.
“Numerous tips have been received indicating the incident was possibly conceived and carried out as part of a plan to fraudulently generate money to a GoFundMe account for Courtier’s recovery,” the sheriff’s office claimed.
That said, officials added that they themselves have “no evidence to support the theory that the incident was committed intentionally as an effort to achieve financial gain.”
The decision to open an investigation comes after park rangers expressed concerns earlier this month over “discrepancies” in Courtier’s story and citing “questions that do not add up,” per ABC4.
For example, Courtier initially claimed that she drank from a river that rangers said contained toxic algae.
“If she had been drinking that water, unless she had some really high immune system, she would’ve been very, very ill and probably unable to come out on her own,” explained sheriff’s search and rescue Sgt. Darrell Cashin.
Courtier’s story has since changed regarding the drinking water, but other inconsistencies such as the extent of her injuries remain.
Since the Park Service does not have the power to investigate violations of Utah law, the sheriff’s office noted that it had an “obligation” to look into the matter.
Can you help find a #missing person in #ZionNationalPark? #USParkRangers are seeking tips from the public to help locate Holly S. Courtier, who was last seen in the park on October 6, 2020 at about 1:30 p.m. Search underway.
Tips ☎️ 888-653-0009
More at https://t.co/hPEdBroAgK pic.twitter.com/hnkfqipc23
— SpecialAgentNPS (@SpecialAgentNPS) October 10, 2020
Initial stories had claimed that Courtier, who lives in Los Angeles, had gone to Zion as a personal retreat after fasting for two days. Her family also stated that she suffered from mental health issues, which only grew after she lost her job as a nanny earlier this spring due to COVID-19.
During the time Courtier was missing, her sister Jaime Strong launched a GoFundMe for the rescue efforts, which included reimbursing the family for hotel and car rental expenses. Strong also wrote that money raised would go towards medical care should the mother-of-one be found.
It raised around $12,000 before Strong deactivated the account. The family has insisted that Courtier’s disappearance was genuine and have stated that they are open to having authorities look into their fundraising efforts.
Since her rescue, Courtier has reportedly checked herself into a mental wellness center and has shied away from giving details about the ordeal that lasted for more than a week.