CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - She told a local church her four sons died fighting for our country, and even let them throw a memorial service for them. None of it was true. Now for the first time from behind bars, Shirley Duncan of North Port is telling her story on how it all came to be.
Duncan created a semi fictitious family of sons who died serving in the Middle East, telling the story to church members of the Community Life Center in Port Charlotte. She took money from some and even had them hold an elaborate funeral service.
Thursday she agreed to her first interview over the phone.
"They said God told them to do this. That they felt sad for me. I didn't ask for the services. They wanted to do it." Of course they wanted to do it because Duncan had told them that over the past few years she had four sons die while serving. The last one as recently as October.
She says she was in a dark place at the time. "Worshiping the devil, worshiping the Ouija board and Tarot cards. I was not in the right state of mind. I needed to feel like I belonged."
She says she's lived a hard life away from family, that the attention felt good. "The feeling that I got from the church was so overwhelming. Giving me hugs. I have not had that for a long time. I have not had the feeling of belonging to a family."
She's been charged with fraud. Some of the photos she used she got from the internet. She also made up a fake letter from the Secretary of Defense talking about one of the deaths. She was actually turned in by her real son who is alive and is currently serving. They have not seen each other in decades she says.
The church is forgiving, says Pastor Mark Coffey. "All it cost me was some time and preparation to share and you know do a funeral service. Our heart was in the right place. That is all I can say about that."
They've even invited her back. "We hope that she can get her life together. That is our goal."
Duncan says she is getting help and hopes to somehow make up for her whopper of tale and what she took. "I want to pay restitution. I want to go back to church. I am afraid because I don't know that much about God. I want to go back. I want to apologize in front of the church."
Duncan herself says without any friends or family to help get her out the Charlotte County Jail on just a $5,000 bond, she will likely remain there for a while.