Pastor: Impostor still lives in area
GALENA, Kan. – A Galena pastor said Monday that a 33-year-old woman who attended his church for several months posing as a 13-year-old boy is still living in the area and still attending the church.
And even though an Internet search turns up information that a woman by the same name has been jailed in the past for similar masquerades in other states, Jim Jones, pastor of Galena Assembly of God, 1500 E. Seventh St., said he is still wondering: Why the ruse?
“I don’t think it’s about money,” he said. “She has received some goods and services in the past, but that is about it. Does she actually need help, or is it all a part of the game? I don’t know.”
On Friday, the Cherokee County prosecutor said that an investigation was initiated after reports that a 33-year-old woman had posed as a 13-year-old boy in an attempt to attend Galena Middle School. A school official said the woman was never formally enrolled and had not been allowed to attend regular school sessions. He said he had been told that the woman’s name is Birdie Jo Hoaks.
On Monday, Prosecutor JoAnna Derfelt said she asked the Sheriff’s Department to handle the investigation. She said that until the investigation is complete, she could not comment on the case. She refused to even confirm the name of the woman in question.
But, Jones said the woman’s name is Birdie Jo Hoaks. He said she attended his church on Sunday, and that he speaks with her on almost a daily basis.
According to a CNN Internet news report, a 25-year-old woman named Birdie Jo Hoaks was arrested in December 1995 in Salt Lake City, Utah, apparently trying to pass herself off as an abandoned 12-year-old boy in order to solicit donations. According to the report, Hoaks had pulled off similar scams in at least 11 other states and had been jailed in at least two states.
Jones would not say where Hoaks is living, but he said he is certain that area authorities know exactly where she is.
“She (Hoaks) gave the (Galena) school district both an old address and a current address,” Jones said. “I’m relatively certain they (the prosecutor’s office) have an accurate address.”
Jones said Hoaks showed up at Galena Assembly of God in October and identified herself as Chris Gomez, a 13-year-old boy. He said Hoaks told him that she had been sleeping in one of the church buses.
“She asked me if anyone could join our church, and I said, ‘Of course,’ ” he said.
Jones said Hoaks presented herself as a young boy who had been the victim of child abuse. He said Hoaks, who is about 5 feet tall and weighs about 140 pounds, was convincing.
He said he often invited the woman to his home after church services for lunch with his family, and that he purchased clothes and food for her. He said a local optometrist who is a member of the church gave her an eye exam and free glasses, and another church member cut her hair for free.
Jones said that while he never suspected that the person was actually a 33-year-old woman, many things that Hoaks told him were suspect.
After initially saying she had nowhere to stay, Jones said, Hoaks said she was living in an apartment.
Jones said he determined that Hoaks did not live in the apartment and confronted her, and Hoaks told him she was living with a sister in another building, which turned out to be an abandoned structure.
“When I told her she couldn’t live there, she told me they were living with friends,” he said.
Jones said Hoaks also told him that she had been home-schooled and had never attended public school, so at his urging and with his help, Hoaks tried to enroll in the Galena School District.
Jones said Hoaks began going to the school on Jan. 6.
“I know she met with a special-education teacher to be evaluated,” Jones said. “But I don’t think she ever was allowed in with the general school population.”
Jones said that as more inconsistencies in Hoaks’ story began to emerge, he confronted the woman on Jan. 25.
“That’s when she told me she was actually a 33-year-old female and that she had three children,” he said.
Jones said he informed the school district of Hoaks’ identity on Jan. 26.
Jones said he spent most of the day Monday fielding calls from people across the country with information to share about Hoaks. He said he has received calls from Arkansas, California, North Dakota, Vermont and New York.
Jones said Hoaks is living in an apartment with her toddler son, her twin sister, her mother and stepfather.
“I have been in the home, and I can tell you her son is healthy and well-cared for,” he said.
Jones said he is hard pressed to find a motive for her actions.
He said Hoaks, who paid him back Sunday for money he had given her to purchase clothing, apparently has access to money. He said she apparently had a place to stay the entire time she was posing as a 13-year-old boy.