The scam seems to have begun sometime around the time that Schnuphase's husband died. "Shortly thereafter, she fell off the face of the Earth," a neighbor told the Detroit Free Press. Schnuphase reportedly told her son Christopher he had leukemia, and began to update her Facebook account with information about his condition ("Christopher now knows he is dying!" read one such update).
In order to maintain the lie, she shaved Christopher's head and eyebrows, mimicking the effects of chemotherapy. Even worse, she drugged him with opiates—via his applesauce, reportedly—to give him a lethargic affect. But the payoff was pretty great: A series of dinners at St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Eastpointe, Michigan, where the Schnuphases had been longtime parishioners, netted some $7,000.
The lie went on for several months, and didn't begin to fall apart until Schnuphase starting going "too far." She told a relative (who talked to MLive.com) that Christopher had died, but said there would be no funeral, because she just couldn't "look at his little body in the coffin." After receiving a series of complaints, the police started an investigation, and weren't able to confirm that Christopher had leukemia. Schnuphase is expected to turn herself in today and face two felony counts of false pretenses over $1,000, as well as child abuse charges.
Christopher, meanwhile, has been placed in foster care. He apparently had no part in the scam, and genuinely believed he was sick.