INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- A couple who falsely claimed to be the parents of critically ill sextuplets were charged Friday with stealing cash and other gifts from people taken in by the ruse.
Kris and Sarah Everson, of Grain Valley, had collected donations for the six babies the couple claimed were born in March. They later admitted to police and reporters that they had lied.
The Eversons were charged with one count each of stealing by deceit, a felony. A judge entered not guilty pleas for them in court Friday.
Kris Everson was released on $4,999 bond Friday but refused to comment outside the courthouse; Sarah Everson was still being held. The Eversons did not yet have attorneys.
Jackson County prosecutor Michael Sanders said the Eversons collected $3,500 in cash from the victims who have come forward so far. However, he added that authorities believe more people gave the couple gifts and cash, and that some victims might be reluctant to come forward because they are embarrassed they fell for the scam.
"In the Midwest, we are a very trusting and generous community," Sanders said. "However, even though we are trusting and we are generous, when individuals take advantage of that trusting and caring nature, we have to send a very clear message that we will not accept that in this community."
The Eversons, who face up to seven years in prison if convicted, are scheduled to appear in court again May 3.
The couple had claimed they kept the births quiet because a family dispute meant their lives and the lives of their babies were threatened. But those the Eversons had turned to for help persuaded them to go to the media, and on Monday, their story was on the front page of The Examiner in Independence, leading to the eventual unraveling of their tale.
On Thursday, Sarah Everson, 45, said she had lied about her pregnancy even to her husband. She said he believed for months that she was pregnant, and police said she told them she went so far as to gain 40 pounds to further the ruse.
Police Chief Aaron Ambrose said the couple had taken in money through a bank fund, a post office box established to receive mailed gifts and an online PayPal account that allowed visitors to the couple's Web site to give money. The Web site has since shut down.
Hours before admitting the hoax, Sarah Everson had allowed an Associated Press reporter into her home, showing off the tiny nursery ready for her four boys and two girls, awaiting their discharge from intensive care.
She told of the surgeries two of the babies would undergo, detailed her discomfort during her pregnancy and even showed photographs of her baring her pregnant-looking midsection.
Kris Everson, 33, had been telling co-workers since December that his wife was pregnant with multiple babies, said Cathi Christina, human resources manager for the Grain Valley brake manufacturing plant where Kris Everson used to work on the assembly line.
Now, Christina said, his former co-workers don't know what to think.
"There's just a mixed bag of emotions," she said. "We feel sorry for them in some regards. They're just ... far off base on how they went about getting help. There's some anger -- disbelief they did it."
A spokeswoman for Haldex Commercial Vehicle Systems North America refused to say whether Kris Everson quit or was fired.