Two women arrested for hostage hoax in Boyceville

By LeAnn R. Ralph

BOYCEVILLE — A Minnesota woman and a Boyceville woman have been arrested for obstructing an officer in connection with a hostage hoax that ended up with about 30 law enforcement officers responding to Boyceville.

Michelle Renee Lien, 27, from Minnesota, and Holly Berg of Boyceville, were arrested May 29 after the Dunn County E-911 Center had received a report from a woman that her daughter was being held against her will.

The woman called 911 at around 1:30 p.m. last Wednesday and said she had received text messages from her daughter that she was being held hostage.

Initially, law enforcement officers believed the woman was being held in the City of Menomonie or that she had been taken from Menomonie.

At around 2:30 p.m., additional information revealed that the woman could possibly be a hostage in the Town of New Haven in northwestern Dunn County.

The Dunn County Sheriff’s Department then contacted the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, at the Eau Claire office and requested the assistance of a technology agent trained in cell phone investigations.

A number of text messages were sent and received alleging that the younger woman was being held at a house by a large man and that he was armed with a knife and a gun.

The text messages also claimed that the woman had two young children with her.

Based on the information provided, the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department requested the use of the Eau Claire SWAT Team in case forced entry would be necessary to rescue the woman once the residence had been identified and located.

At about 6 p.m. that evening, another residence in Wheeler was checked, but the woman was not there. While the Dunn County deputy was in the area, he saw someone who fit the description of the alleged victim.

The deputy spoke to the woman and determined that she was, indeed, the alleged victim.

The woman eventually admitted to sending false text messages to her mother and to law enforcement and was subsequently arrested for obstructing an officer.

The woman was believed to have been staying in Menomonie and had recently began staying with someone in Wheeler or was visiting someone in Wheeler.

The next day after the hoax, Sergeant Travis Mayer of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department said that no additional information about the incident would be available from the sheriff’s department and that the next available information would be a criminal complaint filed by the Dunn County District Attorney.

Boyceville Police Chief Dan Wellumson said he had no direct involvement in the incident, although a Boyceville police car had transported one of the women to the Dunn County Jail as a courtesy to the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department.

“As often happens in a small town, there were many rumors flying around that the bank (in Boyceville) had been robbed and that there were hostages at the bank, but there was no bank robbery,” Wellumson said.

People’s State Bank in Boyceville was used as a staging area for the law enforcement officers who had converged on Boyceville to deal with the alleged hostage situation, he said.

“Many resources were used for a lie,” Wellumson noted when asked to confirm news reports that said about 30 law enforcement officers had responded.

Wellumson said he did not have any information on the motive for perpetrating the hoax.