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Man was intoxicated when he made false report on missing kids, Columbia police say

Police were told two children were missing. In reality, one of them was with a grandmother, and the other was at school.

Columbia, SC (WLTX) — Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A man is in custody after police say he made up a story about two children being inside a stolen car Wednesday.

Darrell Shealy, 55, is charged with filing a false report, which is a felony under South Carolina state law and he may be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison or a $1,000 fine. Shealy is awaiting a bond hearing at the Richland County Detention Center.

The incident triggered an hours long search that tied up law enforcement resources, but Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrooke said they must "err on the side of caution" and investigate each part of the case.

"It's been a very frustrating day," Holbrook said. "We are glad that the children are safe. This is something that's unacceptable and we will hold Mr. Shealy accountable for his actions."

Holbrooke said it all started when Shealy called them Wednesday morning at an extended stay hotel on Stoneridge Drive in Columbia. The man told them that two boys — a 3-year-old and a 7-year-old old — were missing, along with his car.

Shealy later admitted to being intoxicated when he reported the incident, according to a report. However, an exact motive is not known at this time.

Investigators set up a search area to begin looking for the car, bringing in extra officers, aircraft, and a mobile command unit to search for the children.

But after several hours of investigation, Holbrooke said there were problems with what Shealy was telling them. Eventually, officers found the 3-year-old with a grandmother who was babysitting the child, while the 7-year-old was in school. The children are now with family.

Although he initially claimed to be children's biological father, police were able to determine he was only acquaintances with their mother, and not the father.

Officers had said earlier in the day that Shealy claimed he had just picked up the children from their mother and returned to Extended Stay, where he had been staying for about a week. He told police he got out of the vehicle for just a few minutes and found the car was gone when he returned.

Police say were also able to confirm that Shealy been staying there for a week, but there was no indication that the children were ever at the hotel. He also told them he was from Charlotte, and was driving through the area, Holbrook said.

"We devoted a lot of resources, man hours, aircraft," Holbrook said."And it's very frustrating to have this kind of outcome. This is something that's unacceptable and we will definitely hold Mr. Shealy accountable for his actions."

Chennel Walker, a woman who was staying at the hotel, can't believe this happened at the same place she was staying for the past week.

"I think it's a shame for someone to take advantage of our resources that way considering that there are people out here who truly need the police and law enforcement," Chennell Walker said. "It makes me angry because there are so many kids that go missing everyday... I couldn't even imagine if it was my kid for someone to use something like that as a weapon, that's just terrible."

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