Over and over, for at least 18 years, Delashmit has played the puppet master, calculating each lie and directing each narrative like her own small, pathetic god.
On camera, Delashmit seemed tickled by the opportunity to tell her story, and to have her makeup professionally done and her medium-length wavy chestnut hair styled straight
Phil show, where furious victims from both Camp Summit and the breast cancer con confronted her. When Dr. Phil pointed out that perhaps remorse would be a preferable reaction to amusement, Delashmit followed his cues. She agreed when Dr. Phil asked her if she considers herself “deviously manipulative.” But she also couldnt avoid turning herself into the object of misfortune by blaming her problems on a lying addiction, and stating that shes just “a really lonely person.”
But the Dr. “Shes been at this a very long time in multiple communities,” says Andrea Smith, who has been installment loan fast West Virginia chasing Delashmit since 2006. “Its terrifying.” Smith has long moderated a support community for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a severe form of muscular dystrophy that is rare in adults (children with SMA typically do not make it far beyond their second birthday). “We were burying children left and right at the time I discovered this community,” she says.
Phil episode was just the tip of the iceberg
Smith first encountered Delashmit through an online community called SMA Support (a group independent of Smiths own online community), where Delashmit posted as two different women: “Megan” (the name of a high school classmate of hers), and “Connie,” a woman who was supposedly the mother of a child with SMA (in reality, Connie is Delashmits mothers name). “Connie” once wrote: “My sons name is Drake and his birthday is November 6th. [He] was [also] diagnosed when he was 10 months old, I knew something was wrong when he was not pulling up like other kids his age and he was not active at all. Im so scared for my little boy everything I read about SMA is like a death sentence.”
Several moms on the chat noticed something off about Connie. The progression and treatment of SMA is very specific, and Connie said some things that didnt sit right. So the SMA moms started Googling and found that Connies email address had been used to post on Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) chat boards since 2003, but the person writing the posts on that site was supposedly an adult with muscular dystrophy.
Smith kept poking around and found the same email address had been used on a forum for teenagers with cancer; there, the writer claimed to have acute lymphocytic leukemia. Smith believes the same email address was also used to pose as a woman with a younger sister named Gabby with SMA. When the poster posted a picture of “Gabby,” one of the chat members recognized the girl as 2001 MDA National Goodwill Ambassador Sarah Schwegel. “You cant just snag pictures of some kids in wheelchairs, claim them as your own, and not expect us to know who they are,” Smith says.
Smith reached out to the FBI, which wasnt interested in pursuing the case. “They thought it was penny-ante stuff,” she says. But Smith persisted, and the FBI put her in touch with the police in Delashmits hometown of Highland, Illinois. Officers were dispatched to straighten out the then 21-year-old Delashmit. When confronted by police, Delashmit admitted that she had fabricated various personas; that she didnt have SMA; and that she was an only child. Police perceived her as a young and awkward person who had made a mostly harmless mistake. But Smith was convinced it was more than that. “Sarah was calculating,” Smith says. “She played dumb, she played vulnerable, and she just kept at it. And it escalated.”