Woman admits she lied about death of soldier
It was all a lie.
Around 6 p.m. Monday, Sarah Kenney admitted she’d made up the whole story about a soldier named Jonathan Kenney being killed in Iraq.
When she first picked up her cellular phone, Sarah Kenney continued with the lie she had been telling since Thursday, insisting she was Amber Kenney, wife of slain soldier Jonathan Kenney.
She said she was in Lincoln, Neb., on her way back from Des Moines, where she said her husband was buried on Saturday.
“I have all the paperwork,” she said.
But she couldn’t explain the facts the entire Free Press editorial staff had unearthed during three days of investigations:
– No one by the name of Jonathan Kenney ever served with the Colorado Army National Guard, where she said he had served.
– No one named Jonathan Kenney had ever worked at Grand Junction Chrysler Jeep Dodge, where she said he had worked.
– No one named Jonathan Kenney was ever born in Des Moines, Iowa, where she said he had been born.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” she continually said, sticking to her story.
Then she struggled to explain more inconsistencies.
There had been no funeral in Des Moines on Saturday, as she claimed. A Marine killed in action had been honored with a military funeral. It was not, she was told, Jonathan Kenney.
No one named Amber Quiling, which she said was her maiden name, graduated from Grand Junction High School in 1988, which she had said she did.
Calls to Iowa City, Iowa, high schools ” public and private ” found that no one named Jonathan Kenney had ever attended high school in that city, as she had said. She also claimed he had been a standout high school football player, that he had been recruited as an outside linebacker by the University of Iowa and that those dreams had been dashed when he broke his leg during the last game of his senior year.
“I’m a good person,” she insisted. “It doesn’t make any sense to make something like this up.”
Finally, when called by her real name, Sarah, and asked to admit that she did it, Amber became Sarah. Her voice cracked, but she remained composed.
“I’ll say it was all made up if I don’t have cops show up at my front door,” she said. “Yes, it was all made up.”
Her explanation was not clear.
She was doing it for a friend, she said, who believed her husband had been killed in Iraq but wasn’t sure.
She said the picture she provided to Homefront Heroes, which was distributed to local media, was given to her by that friend.
She didn’t know who the person in the picture was, she said.
“I feel like an ass,” she said. “I’m scared the cops are going to be showing up at my front door.”
When asked how she thought making up such a lie would help her friend, she said, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Sarah Kenney said she fully supports the war in Iraq.
“I’m totally for the war over there,” she said. “I commend everyone who is over there.”
She also said she’s impressed by everything the local Homefront Heroes organization has done.
She’s impressed by the Girl Scout cookies they send overseas and the flags and yellow ribbons members hang at their homes and throughout the community, she said.
In fact, she has two yellow ribbons on her car antennae, she said, showing the pride she has in those fighting in Iraq.
“She is such a good person,” she said of Homefront Heroes president Phyllis Derby. “I commend her for what she does.”
According to Derby, Amber (Sarah) Kenney called her about every hour the past couple days.
When asked if she felt good about the sympathy doled out by Derby, Sarah Kenney said, “No, I didn’t. Because I knew what I was doing was wrong.”
Sarah Kenney’s maiden name is Quiling, and she said she graduated from a Phoenix High School in 1998, which explains why no record exists of an Amber Quiling graduating from Grand Junction High School in 1988.
Her real husband is not dead. Michael Kenney is alive and managing a local fast-food restaurant. He’s perplexed, he said, by his wife’s actions.
“I wouldn’t even think of doing anything like this,” said Michael Kenney, when contacted early Monday afternoon. “I can’t tell you why she would do this, if she did. I would like to know why she did it.
“Why would you make up a story of someone getting killed?”
Sarah Kenney said she decided a couple weeks ago to trick the entire community into believing a local soldier died saving the life of a child in Iraq.
“I debated it for quite awhile. It went against my better judgment,” she said. “I really do feel bad. I don’t know what else to say.”
She then repeated what she said earlier.
“I can’t say it enough,” she said. “I feel like an ass.”
Derby said she feels sorry for Kenney and that Homefront Heroes wants to do what they can for her, too.
“This woman needs help,” Derby said. “We want to do everything we can to see that she gets the help she needs.”
Free Press staff writers Veronica Stickney, Paul Shockley, Dane Stickney and Tracy Dvorak contributed to this report.