Internet prank sends police to Cape house

Friday, October 24, 2003
Cape Girardeau police prepared to enter a house at 911 Hickory St. Thursday afternoon.

Chat room vengeance took its toll Thursday on the Cape Girardeau police force and the 900 block of Hickory Street.

Officers responded in force to the anonymous tip that Charles Depauw had shot his mother, Nancy, in their home at 911 Hickory.

A police spokesman said later the tip was a false report, the culmination of an argument between Charles Depauw and an acquaintance in an Internet chat room.

When they saw the officers approach, the Depauws stepped onto their front porch and into a crowd of police wielding hand guns and rifles.

Following protocol, the officers made the two lie down on the front lawn while they secured the house.

Sgt. Rick Schmidt said that every available patrol officer and detective responded, as well as the fire department and an ambulance.

"When they call in a shooting and you don't know if the bad guy's still in there, you have to treat it like he's there," Schmidt said.

Unlike 911 calls that are traceable, this tipster used the station's business line, which does not have caller ID. Schmidt said the tipster called from out of state and used a calling card.

"We'll probably never find him," Schmidt said.

The prank disrupted the neighborhood as much as it annoyed the police. Officers did not allow residents to enter the block, and they evacuated the houses next door to the Depauws' residence. Crowds gathered at the intersections to watch the spectacle.

Tori Douglas said she tried to visit a friend's house at 915 Hickory as the officers assessed the situation.

"As soon as we pulled up, the cops had it all blocked off, and they wouldn't even let us out of the car," Douglas said.

A woman at the Depauw residence declined to comment on the incident Thursday except to shake her head sadly and say, "It was just a prank."

335-6611 extension 127

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