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August 27, 2005

This Just Gets Sicker

Yesterday I told you all about the Iraq Soldier Hoax that played out in the pages of the Daily Egyptian at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Well, the story gets stranger as I read the coverage by Carbondale's REAL newspaper, the Southern Illinoisan.

First, we find out that the DE was not the only entity spoofed -- a Detroit church was also scammed a couple of months ago. Patrick Trovillion, who thought he was playing the part of Dan Kenner in a documentary project, may just have revealed why "Kennings" had to "die" in Iraq.

He also detailed a trip only three months ago when he traveled with Reynolds and the child playing the part of Kodee to a Detroit church that had befriended many American soldiers in Iraq. Trovillion said Reynolds instructed him to "stay in character" during the entire service.

"This was a huge church and we were seated in the front row and the pastor introduced me as Dan Kennings, so I thought they all knew that this was part of the documentary," Trovillion said. "I mean these people were hugging me and telling me they loved me and I just went along with it; I thought they were just playing the part. I even got in the car and told Jaime (Reynolds) 'those people were good ¦ they were just awesome.' I even got up in front of the congregation and gave a little speech. This church was very supportive of Dan and they knew Kodee."

Reynolds said he didn't know if the church gave any money to Reynolds on the trip but said she paid him $400 to make the overnight trip to Detroit. Attempts to reach the pastor of the church were unsuccessful.

Trovillion said he has not spoken with Reynolds in "a few months" but said he began to have serious doubts about the validity of the project after he contacted the youth pastor at the Detroit church.

"I told her who I was and she acted like she didn't recognize my name," said Trovillion. "I told her that I was the guy that had played the part of Dan Kennings and she said 'Is this some kind of sick joke?' I didn't know what to say and after what I've learned in the last few days I still don't know what to say. She (Reynolds) didn't just scam me and Kodee and the Daily Egyptian - she scammed the pastor and the entire congregation of that church."

Trovillion was paid $400 for the trip -- I wonder how much money Jaimie Reynolds milked from that congregation?

For her part, Reynolds has quit talking.

MARION - Though many believe Jaimie Reynolds concocted the story of Kodee Kennings because she craved attention, the former Southern Illinois University Carbondale student wanted nothing to do with the news media that came knocking at her door Friday.

The elaborate, year-and-a-half-long hoax Reynolds promoted through the guise of 10-year-old Caitlin Hadley, of Montpelier, Ind., caught the attention of media outlets statewide and throughout the Midwest.

Several reporters and camera crews, including The Southern Illinoisan, spent time outside Reynolds' home in the 800 block of West Boulevard Street in Marion. Reporters made multiple attempts to speak with Reynolds. However, they were either answered with silence or the quiet admonition of a middle-aged woman, assumed to be a family member of Reynolds, from the back doorstep.

Friday's silence represented a marked change in Reynolds' behavior with the media.

You know, that silence may be her first smart move, especially if she has eceived even a penny on behalf of Dan and Kodee Kennings. The word for having done so would be "fraud".

For his part, former editor Michael Brenner, who was responsible for much of the Kodee coverage, is being sought by the media for interviews. The only problem is that they are not job interviews, but rather story interviews.

The networks are clawing for interviews with former Daily Egyptian editor Michael Brenner.

But he's worried if he'll ever land a job in journalism.

"Who's going to want to hire me after this?" Brenner asked in a telephone interview with The Southern Illinoisan from his grandparents' home in Indiana.

The former editor of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale student newspaper is at the center of a media firestorm.

ABC wants to fly him to New York City. So do NBC and CBS. CNN has called, too, he said.

Friday afternoon, Brenner was fielding a constant barrage of calls from the media.

Brenner recently quit his job as a sportswriter with the East Oregonian, a job he landed shortly after donning his gown and receiving his diploma in the December 2004 SIUC graduation ceremonies.

He said he left the Oregon job after only a few months because he wanted to spend time with his family in Illinois - and with the girl he said he had known as "Kodee Kennings."

Now he is the focus of questions and debate in the media world.

He claims he was "an idiot."

For Brenner's sake, I hope he really was simply an idiot who got duped. Reynolds has claimed that she and Brenner were a couple, and that the hoax was his idea. It seems hard to believe he would be that stupid, but then again either option indicates he was stupid. Did he fake a story he couldn't possibly sustain long-term, or did he simply get suckered? Given that he involved his own parents with Reynolds, I want to believe that he is a victim. But there is some evidence that he might not be -- and that he is enjoying the attention.

As journalists continue to attempt to unravel the Kodee mystery, many are asking, "Why?"

Why did the people who played roles in the hoax get involved? What was the motive?

I spoke to a lot of fellow journalists who have been poking around in this case and most of them seem to be willing to give Brenner the benefit of the doubt.

I am still skeptical.

Here's my problem: One moment, Brenner says he's distraught. Then a second phone rings (he was juggling two phones most of Friday afternoon) and his voice turns giddy.

Frankly, he seems flattered by all of the media attention. Rather than draw the curtains in shame and retreat (as did Colleen Hastings/Jaimie Reynolds on Friday) Brenner seemed to revel in it.

In the last of many phone conversations I had with Brenner on Friday, he told me that he had committed to be on "Good Morning America" and "Nightline" on Monday. ABC had won the battle of the networks. According to him.

I'm very interested in the story. It is happening in my old stomping grounds -- litterally in my old backyard (I lived and worked just a block from the SIU Campus for a couple of years in the late 1980s). My family has a connection going back to my dad and his siblings starting school there in the early 1950s, continuing through the my generation and including two members if the family teaching for the university. I want to see how this story turns out -- and how the perpetrators are dealt with by the powers that be.

***

MORE ON THIS STORY FOUND AT Michelle Malkin, Resistance is Futile, Angry in the Great White North, Florida Masochist, Doc Rampage, Harleys, Cars, and Girls, Salient Points, Florida Cracker, With Cheese, It Comes In Pints, Brainster's Blog, Getting Nothing But Static From MSM, Out of the Box, Don Surber, The Busch Stadium III Photo Blog, My Yellow Country Teeth, Musings From Brian J. Noggle, Right Nation and Tim Blair.





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