Leatha Slauson, a 30-year-old mom from Iowa, did the unconscionable – faked her daughter’s terminal cancer in order to dupe and then scoop up donations from online well-wishers who were moved by Slauson’s tale of woe. Slauson told family and friends that her 5-year-old daughter Riley was dying of colorectal cancer, and solicited money – some of which was used to send the family to Disney World – before the jig was up.
Slauson went to extremes to keep the ruse running – she shaved Riley’s head and even “medicated” her with cannabis oil. The fraudster mom has since been arrested and charged with one count of child endangerment and a related drug charge for giving Riley the oil to make her appear ill.
Slauson set up a GoFundMe account for Riley, which is closed to donations but still available online. She writes (multiple corrections in spelling made):
Riley is our 4-year-old daughter. She is fighting for life as she has metastatic colon cancer that has also spread to her liver. She is on very high doses of oral chemo and has just had an NG tube placed as she is not eating very well… She now has a line and is getting IV chemo; she was not accepted for liver transplant at this time. She is such a brave little girl and such a fighter. I really hate asking for help, especially since so many people have sent such beautiful things for Riley but I have no other choice. With 5 kids and 4 being special needs, medical bills and medical equipment is adding up. All money raised will go to pay Riley’s bills and medical equipment and help with gas and other expenses.
The mother now sits in Cass County Jail after preying on the kindness of strangers. Leatha filched thousands from donators, not including the cost of the family’s Disney trip.
Commenters to the GoFundMe page, full of cute pics of the “sick” Riley, lashed out against Slauson:
Wow! Just....wow! How awful! Such a terrible thing to lie about... all so you can get money from people to take a trip to Disney World and whatever else you did with them money?! Poor child! She will forever be associated with the despicable actions of her parents (I know the father wasn't charged (yet) but I'm not sure how the father couldn't have know about this)! No words to express the disgust! WOW – Jennifer Coleman
It is a sick thing to use your kid and lie to so many caring people around you. Shame on you. I personally have a friend that I grew up with who lost his two year old to cancer. It's not something you want to hear or see someone go through. Your kid is an innocent victim in this as well as all the people you lied to. – Adam Stanley
Local firefighters even got involved in Riley’s cause, since the now 5-year-old said she wanted to be a firefighter when she grew up. Fundraising was established. Fire Chief Mark McNees made Riley an honorary firefighter. Another member of the fire house pounded the pavement in a boot drive, collecting money that went toward the family’s trip to Orlando.
“(The cancer) is just spreading too fast,” Slauson said back in April. “It spread to her liver and the last MRI (showed) it spread to her lymph nodes and they stopped chemotherapy.” Riley even appeared on a local news station with tubes shoved up her nose.
Slauson’s deception was uncovered when Riley’s school insisted that Leatha turn over information regarding Riley’s doctors so that the school could arrange for her care during classes. The contacts Leatha gave proved fake.
Writes the Daily News:
[Leatha's] other four children are now under the care of their father, whom cops say doesn’t appear to be involved in the scheme. The dad was apparently “struggling with how to proceed in his life" after hearing about the crime.
The Atlantic Fire Department was also upset about the news. On its Facebook page, Fire Chief McNees said that Riley will continue to be an honorary member of their team.
“Under the current circumstances, she needs our support more than ever and will remain an honorary member and we wish her nothing but the best in her future,” the chief said.