PORT HURON (WWJ/AP) – A Michigan woman accused of lying for years about having cancer was convicted Thursday in a separate case of falsely accusing two men of rape.
The jury took less than 30 minutes to convict 38-year-old Sara Ylen after a three-day trial in St. Clair County, 60 miles northeast of Detroit.
Ylen was charged with making up a story about two men attacking her in her Lexington home in 2012. Ylen was also convicted of tampering with evidence after police said she used makeup to create what looked like bruises. She did not testify in her own defense.
Ylen’s story resembled a “cheap novel,” prosecutor Suzette Samuels told jurors. “She’s lying through her teeth. … This was unreal,” Samuels said.
In final remarks, defense attorney David Heyboer said police did not follow up on other leads and didn’t go to Ylen’s house for a close examination of what took place.
Judge Daniel Kelly revoked Ylen’s bond and sent her to jail to await sentencing on Jan. 17. Her legal problems, however, are far from over.
Ylen faces trial on Feb. 4 in neighboring Sanilac County, where she’s charged with fraud and false pretenses for claiming she had cancer.
Ylen received months of hospice care and thousands of dollars from sympathetic supporters, but there’s no evidence that she had cancer, according to the state police.
She claimed she was a patient at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Ill., but the hospital said Ylen never was treated there. During pre-trial hearings, prosecutors disclosed forged documents with University of Michigan medical center letterhead.
Authorities say it’s not clear what Ylen’s motive would have been. Money raised through community fundraisers helped her with rent and other expenses, but there’s no evidence of extravagant living.
The criminal cases have stunned people in the eastern Michigan area known as the Thumb. Ylen is well-known locally after talking to the Port Huron Times Herald years ago for a series of stories about being a rape victim. Ylen told police she had been raped in broad daylight in a Meijer store parking lot more than a year earlier.
There was no surveillance video, physical evidence or witnesses. James Grissom, an off-duty Meijer employee with a past sex-related conviction, was charged after Ylen said her attacker, like Grissom, had a skull tattoo. Despite insisting his innocence, Grissom was found guilty in 2003 and sentenced to at least 15 years in prison, an enhanced punishment because Ylen said her attacker gave her a sexually transmitted disease.
But it didn’t take long for Ylen’s story to start unraveling. Authorities learned she claimed to have been kidnapped and raped while visiting her parents in Bakersfield, Calif., just months after the alleged parking lot attack back in Michigan. No charges were filed.
“My daughter likes to have a lot of attention,” her father, Dale Hill, told Bakersfield officers in a 2001 police report that wasn’t uncovered until after Grissom’s trial.
After years of appeals, a judge in 2012 ruled that the police report could have changed the outcome of Grissom’s trial and ordered a new one, saying Ylen appeared to have “concocted incredible stories” in California. Prosecutors dropped the case without a second trial, and Grissom was freed in November after spending a decade behind bars.
Grissom was a spectator this week during Ylen’s false rape trial.
“Strange. The last time I was coming down to this courtroom I had handcuffs on,” Grissom told the Times Herald. “I figured I had to be here, just to see what she gets away with and what she don’t.”
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