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The Vault: The highly publicized strip-search hoax that stunned a Kentucky community

A man pretending to be police duped a McDonald's manager into strip searching an employee in 2004. The incident led to investigations, court cases and lawsuits.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — "I can still not get in my mind why happened what happened."

It was hard to believe, even for a detective that had seen it all.

The case, starting April 9, 2004 at a Mt. Washington McDonald’s, when a man called the restaurant from a pay phone in Florida more than 600-miles away.

The caller told then assistant manager Donna Summers that he was a police officer. He convinced Summers her employee, Louise Ogborn, stole money from a customer.

The caller went on to encourage Summers to perform a strip search on the young employee right there in the restaurant, and she did.

On that same call, the manager's boyfriend was persuaded to sodomize the teenage employee in the backroom.

During a nine-year period, the caller made calls to dozens of restaurants in as many as 30 states and detectives said he pulled off at least 70 over the phone strip searches.

Credit: File video
Donna Summers (top center) and Louise Ogborn (bottom center).

Months after the Mt. Washington hoax, investigators cracked the case and tracked down the phone card purchased. They also found surveillance video and seeing David Stewart, a corrections officer still in uniform, buying gift cards from a Panama City, Florida Walmart.

Stewart was extradited to Bullitt County and the case headed to the courts with investigators feeling like justice was served.

A jury eventually found Stewart not guilty of all counts in October 2006.

There was no recording of his voice or witness to testify they saw Steward making the call which made it hard for jurors to convict him.

The others accused of crimes in the incident would not have the same outcome.

Seven months prior, Walter Nix, the manager’s boyfriend, was found guilty on multiple charges – accepting a deal to testify against Stewart.

Credit: FILE footage/WHAS-TV
David Stewart

Summers was also convicted on misdemeanor charges and spent a year on probation.

There was some accountability but not enough. The following year, Ogborn sued McDonald’s, asking for $200 million in damages.

"I was ashamed of it." "Why were you ashamed?" "Cause I felt like I had done something wrong. That maybe I should have done something. I should have fought back. Maybe I should have ran," she said.

McDonald's attorneys emphasized the blame belonged on Summers for not recognizing it was a hoax.

Two of her employees that night, a short order cook and a maintenance man, even suspected it and both became witnesses for McDonald's.

In the end, Ogborn was awarded $6.1 million for punitive damages, compensatory damages, and expenses.

Credit: File footage/WHAS-TV
Louise Ogborn

Summers was also awarded more than $1 million from McDonald’s because of the company’s failure to warn employers about hoax callers and what they should do.

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