- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — A man thought to have been the victim of a cruel prankster who told him his wife had been killed in Iraq has admitted concocting the story and was arrested yesterday, authorities said.

Edward Valentin, whose wife, Betsy, is an Army Reserve sergeant, was charged with making a false statement to police, falsely reporting an incident concerning a death and harassment, Police Chief Neil O’Leary said.

Mr. Valentin was being held in lieu of $5,000 bail, and arraignment was set for today.

“As far as why he did it, there’s no clear answer,” Chief O’Leary said. “He claimed he did it because he has been struggling with three children. And if everyone felt sorry for him, including the military, they’d send Betsy home.”

Chief O’Leary said investigators also discovered that Mr. Valentin had been trying to date another woman, who was not interested in dating a married man.

Mr. Valentin told reporters that he received a call Wednesday from someone identifying himself as a colonel at the Department of Defense. The caller, he said, told him his wife had been killed in an explosion.

On Thursday, however, he received a call from his wife. There had been no explosion and no injuries. That led investigators to think there had been a hoax.

Police said Saturday that Mr. Valentin admitted making up the story.

Mr. Valentin’s story began to fall apart when a reporter for the Republican-American of Waterbury, who previously had interviewed Betsy Valentin, e-mailed her in Iraq. Hours later, she returned the e-mail and called her husband.

It was not clear yesterday whether Betsy Valentin knew her husband had been arrested. Maj. John Whitford of the Army National Guard said that the news would be passed through the chain of command.

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