Esther Reed dropped out of high school, attended Harvard, Columbia University and California State University, Fullerton. She was a chess tournament champion and a valuable addition to the debate teams at CSU Fullerton and Harvard. She was widely regarded as being very intelligent, if a little “off.”
Natalie Bowman graduated from Harvard, and is currently a med student at Columbia. Bowman was also on the debate team at Harvard, but graduated before Reed arrived there.
Brooke Henson was a pretty girl who grew up in the small town of Travelers Rest, SC, got involved with a dangerous man and went missing in July 1999 and was never seen again.
Esther Reed used the identities of the other two women and many others to escape family dysfunction, and maybe herself, according to her attorney, Ann Fitz of Atlanta. Though Fitz’s theory might be on target, it didn’t work as a defense; Reed was sentenced last week in a South Carolina federal court to four years in prison for stealing their identities and receiving more than $100,000 in student loans in their names.
When Reed was arrested she was still using Henson’s identity. Her fraud was so complete she was even able to answer personal questions about her life in the Henson family, and convinced the New York police detective who interrogated her that she fled South Carolina to escape domestic abuse. Nonetheless, he contacted the Henson family to let them know that their daughter and sister was alive and well.
Lisa Henson, Brooke’s sister, recounted her family’s elation on hearing of Brooke’s well being, and their emotional devastation on learning the truth. She asked the judge to punish Reed with the longest possible prison term for the torture she put the Henson through. She attended Reed’s sentencing last week and after hearing the judge deliver a four year sentence she said didn’t think Reed had gotten a long enough sentence.
“She should be locked up and never see the light of day again for what she put us through,” she said.