The Town Believed She Was 22. She Definitely Wasn't

'Elle' has the story of 'Lauren Ashleigh Hays'
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2022 6:00 AM CST
The Town Believed She Was 22. She Definitely Wasn't
   (Getty Images / BackyardProduction)

By all appearances, Lauren Ashleigh Hays was 22 as she said—and acted even younger. After arriving at a shelter in Missouri in 2016 saying she was fleeing an abusive boyfriend, the small town of Willow Springs rallied around her. She landed a job at the library, enrolled in college, and secured a studio apartment, "which was a classically messy young adult habitat with laundry strewn across the floor" and regularly visited by friends, writes Sarah Treleaven for Elle. Lauren loved posting selfies to Facebook, partied hard, giggled frequently, was "more than a bit ditsy," and claimed childhood trauma was why she ended up with the mentality of a 16-year-old. Two years later, a local who'd grown close to her and felt like some things just didn't add up asked her sister-in-law to do some digging. And boy, did she find something.

Lauren Ashleigh Hays was at that point a 24-year-old living in Arkansas. The Missouri Lauren was Laura Oglesby—the real Hays' 45-year-old mother. Treleaven writes that it's unclear why Oglesby decided to up and leave her daughter and husband of eight years one day (neither she nor her lawyers commented for the piece), but she did seem to be fleeing at least one problem: allegations that she'd used funds from a former employer's business account to pay several credit cards. She was arrested Aug. 28, 2018, on allegations she'd fraudulently obtained a Social Security card and driver's license and had gotten federal student loans and grants under a stolen identity. Last December she pleaded guilty in connection with the Social Security fraud and has yet to be sentenced. (Read the full story here.)

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