Around 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening, CNN, Reuters and The New York Times, among others, seized on the juicy news that a "mass grave" of at least 20 "dismembered bodies" had been discovered in rural Texas. Only, the cops hadn't found any bodies, membered or dismembered — just a house with some blood on the porch. Also: They were acting on a tip from a psychic.
The report of the bodies seems to have originated with local news station KPRC, which initially cited the Liberty County Sheriff's Office, though CNN apparently confirmed through "a source" that "at least 20 bodies were found." The victims were said to be children, and local news broadcast helicopter footage of a dozen or so police vehicles on a rural road.
But just as soon as it started, the story ended. The sheriff's office pushed back almost immediately, telling the more patient reporters that no bodies had been found, that there was blood on the house's porch, and that police were still waiting for a warrant. And then:
Investigators said someone told them about the location, but did not elaborate. Sources told KPRC Local 2 that a psychic sent them to the house.
A psychic. A psychic! Of course. The Liberty County Sheriff's Office was investigating this house because it had been told, by a psychic, that 30 dismembered children's bodies were buried nearby. And, of course, this was reported as confirmed by KPRC, and all of a sudden, the Times was sending out official news alerts, and just like that, the Liberty County Sheriff's Office's investigation of a psychic's tip became, briefly, national news.
[Owner Joe Bankston] said there's blood on the porch and in the house because his daughter's former boyfriend tried to commit suicide a couple of weeks ago.
"He got drunk and cut his wrist," Bankston said. "It took me all day to clean the inside of the house. I'm not sure I got it [the blood] all."
The boyfriend, an Army soldier who was AWOL, is now in a military psychiatric ward in Killeen, according to Bankston. He said a police report was filed with the sheriff's department after the suicide attempt.
And! As if "messily suicidal AWOL soldier ex-boyfriend" wasn't enough color to this already fascinating story!
Bankston said he's owned the property for a little over three years. He admitted his son, Joe, is a convicted sex offender, but said he hasn't lived in Hardin for over a year.
"He lived with us for a little while, but had to go to Michigan about a year ago for a court appearance and never came back," Bankston said. "Last I heard, he was in Ohio."
And, surprise! After getting their warrant, authorities found "nothing out of order." (Except for, we guess, this: "A foul stench emanating from the house was found to be coming from piles of rotting garbage.") CNN—two hours later—clarified its initial report.