Lat last month, a 16-year-old girl called her brother from a bus in Logan, Utah. A man had sexually assaulted her, she told him.
The brother tracked the Cache Valley Transit District bus down and jumped the man as soon as the man exited the vehicle.
“Kind of a linebacker-type charge toward the gentleman, knocking him down,” Logan Police Chief Gary Jensen told KSTU about the April 23 incident. “This is an absolutely horrible event.”
The attack left the man, 62-year-old Michael Fife, unconscious. The sister and brother fled.
The girl called police hours later to report a sexual assault on the bus.
Meanwhile, police and paramedics arrived after the brother’s assault and Fife was taken to Logan Regional Hospital, then transferred to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden, Utah, where he died.
Police reviewed surveillance video from the bus, and made a startling discovery.
Instead of the alleged assault, the video revealed the sexual assault in question was clearly made up.
“The video showed Mr. Fife walking past the girl,” a post to the Logan City Police Department Facebook page stated. “But no sexual assault occurred.”
But for Michael Fife, that didn’t matter.
“His injuries were so bad that he was transferred to McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden, UT where they performed emergency surgery on his skull to relieve the swelling of his brain,” states a Go Fund Me page set up to solicit donations for Fife’s hospital bills, cremation and burial.
Not even the new hospital was able to deal with the severity of Fife’s wounds.
“Things progressively got worse, and Michael succumbed to his injuries early Saturday morning, April 27, 2019,” the GoFundMe pages states. “He leaves behind his only child Michael Andrew Fife II (Mike).”
As of Monday morning, the page had collected almost $7,000 of its goal of $8,000.
According to the Logan Police Department, the case is still under investigation. The names of the accuser and her brother are not being released due to both of them being underage.
But as things stand now, an apparent lie caused a tragedy. The brother of the accuser, thinking someone hurt his sister, attacked an innocent man he was told did it. This death will likely sit on his conscience forever.
For real victims of sexual assault, this is another false accusation that makes telling their story so much more difficult.
But the Fife family itself has the deepest loss of all.
Although the criminal justice system can be sluggish and awkward at times, this shows the need for rule of law instead of vigilantism.
One video would have exonerated this man and changed the course of multiple lives.
Nothing can bring Michael Fife back, but the gut-wrenching outcome of this false accusation may keep other from making the same mistake.