POLK COUNTY, Georgia (WGCL) — The Cedartown community rallied behind a local mom for about one year, after they learned she had cancer.
The church, small businesses, and neighbors donated to all her causes. But Polk County Police said that the diagnosis was all a scam.
The betrayal is deeply personal for so many because the price feels measured in the trust lost, not the dollars spent. But so far, Polk County Police Department has verified $15,000 in fundraising had been pocketed by Katie Shellhorse.
“I just wanted to help as much as I could financially,” said Cori Pope.
Brooke Mabrey added, “I sent her on Venmo about $500.
There was online support, cash donations, even free photoshoots, as well handmade clothes for fundraising.
Mabrey told CBS46 in addition to sending Shellhorse money, her small business created shirts that were sold to benefit the 22-year-old. The idea was just one of many fundraisers created after the Cedartown mother took to Facebook to claim she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“This is a unique case for us,” explained Detective Caleb Bowman.
Bowman says their investigation revealed Shellhorse was no victim but a scam suspect. Her family filed a police report with the agency on April 27th after they believed her cancer claims were no longer adding up. Bowman told CBS46, two days ago she turned herself in.
“She explained to us that she used it to pay for her bills and things for her kids.”
From prayer circles to survivor support groups, the town showed up in waves for the mom they thought was dying. Donors like Isabella Partain and Cori Pope.
Partain says she cannot forgive Shellhorse right now.
“That’s just morally bankrupt of her to ask the church for help.”
Pope added, “We were genuinely upset and sad and cried and prayed for her and her family.”
The close knit community, including the real cancer survivors, told CBS46 the case is “sickening.”
Regina Gentry, 30-plus year cancer survivor, wrote to CBS46’s Ciara Cummings, “Her scam against people makes it hard for those of us that try to raise money and awareness for the cause.”
Shellhorse bonded out of jail Wednesday. CBS46 reached out to her family for a statement. We have not yet heard back.
“It’s not just the money. It’s the time, energy, and effort that has been put into this,” Pope argued.
“Just to be contacted and told ‘oh it was a big scam,’ it’s heartbreaking,” continued Mabrey.
Polk County PD says if you donated at all, file a police report with their agency.
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