You’ve heard of stolen identity and identity theft, of course. Have you ever heard of stealing your own identity? Treva Throneberry was a piece of work. She was rather like the character Victor/Victoria in the film of the same name except she wasn’t bi-gender. Instead Treva walked happily through life with the false identity of Brianna Stewart, a supposedly traumatized teen who had escaped a home of abuse and neglect. Brianna had a tale to tell that was fascinating and tragic, and in spite of its extreme cruelty she actually had teens and adults alike believing her bull.
Born Treva Throneberry to Carl and Patsy Throneberry of Wichita Falls, Texas, on May 18, 1969. Treva was the youngest of four sisters. Her youngest sister status in a family with several girls might have had an influence on her later behaviour. Birth order can be highly influential on people. In Treva’s case, she happened to be shy and sweet, a target for sexual predators. Treva and her three sisters were “repeatedly molested by their uncle” who is now deceased. The sexual abuse continued throughout their teenage years yet the girls never spoke of it to anyone. The three older girls all got married in their teens to escape their uncle’s advances but Treva, “the sweetest and the quietest of all the Throneberry girls,” remained behind and purportedly endured the worst of the abuse.
In December 1985, she went to the police station and accused her father of holding a gun to her head and raping her. It was a charge her father vehemently denied and her family couldn’t accept as true. Nevertheless it resulted in Treva being placed in foster care even though the charges against her father were ultimately dropped for lack of evidence. I’m not clear on that one. Did the police expect her father to admit to his actions if he did indeed abuse his little girl? Treva went to live with the Gentry family of Wichita Falls and before long she was enrolled in the local high school. Treva “developed a reputation as a diligent, thoughtful student” who “regularly read her bible and wrote poetry.” Even though she seemed to be adapting well to her new environment, inwardly Treva was undergoing emotional turmoil, which was likely a result of years of abuse. Once again the bottled up pain resurfaced. Treva started to tell stories of being kidnapped by Satanists, who tortured her by forcing her to watch them kill animals. The stories were likely signs that she was experiencing delusional thoughts. During that time she also talked often about killing herself. Concerned for her psychological well-being, social services admitted Treva to a Wichita Falls State Hospital where she remained for five months and received therapy and medication for a inexplicable “character disorder.”
Following Treva’s discharge from the hospital she was sent to live at the Lena Pope Home for troubled girls located in Fort Worth, Texas. Treva enrolled at Arlington Heights High School where she eventually earned her degree in 1987. At the age of 18, she left the girl’s home and rented an apartment. Treva supported herself by taking a job cleaning motel rooms in Arlington, Texas. After a while Treva left her job and began to travel around the county. At some point thereafter she stopped being Treva Throneberry and began taking on new identities in a quest to remain forever young. Forever young. Well that’s one way of doing it. Personally I recommend botox.
In the early to mid-1990s, Treva, using the aliases Keili Smitt, Cara Leanna Davis, Kara Williams and Emily Kharra Williams, temporarily lived in Corvallis, Oregon, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Plano, Texas and Asheville, North Carolina. Treva flitted between homeless shelters and the homes of people who were generous enough to take her in. Everywhere she went, she claimed to be a teenager and enrolled in the local high schools. Although she didn’t have the appropriate paperwork, the schools gave her the benefit of the doubt and accepted her. She was treated as a “hard luck” case, a girl from an abusive background who was just trying to earn her diploma and make it on her own anyway she knew how. She told a similar story that her father, an alleged police officer and Satanist, killed her mother and raped her. In each town the police followed up on her stories but were unable to substantiate them. In one case in 1993, Treva pressed charges against a Portland, Oregon, police officer. She claimed that the man was her father and that he raped her. Before the charges could be verified, Treva disappeared.
Then in August 1996, she appeared again. This time Treva went to Altoona, Pennsylvania, with a different age, 16, and a new name, Stephanie Lewis. However, Treva wasn’t as successful fooling the people there as she had been in other towns. Once again, Treva told the story of the satanic cult and her father abusing her and once again the police and social workers followed up on the case. Yet during their investigation a social worker spotted a reference in the girl’s notebook to a Susanne Arnold in Texas, and some phone calls and record checks proved that the girl was Treva Throneberry then aged 27. Treva was arrested. She pleaded guilty to filing a false report and served a 9-day jail sentence. Upon her release Treva skipped from state to state, from shelter to shelter and through an endless stream of high schools looking for a place where she belonged.
Her long journey eventually landed her in Vancouver, Washington in 1998. There she was known as 16-year-old Brianna Stewart. While there she attended Evergreen High School and was cared for by the foster care system which found her temporary shelter with various families including some of the homes of her classmates. Treva seemed to quickly settle into the new community and her high school. Although she wasn’t quite like all the students, her classmates accepted her and she became friends with a select few. One young man in particular named Ken formed a close bond with Treva and the two became almost inseparable. Before long they began going steady. Treva often confided in Ken and at times she revealed to him the horrors of her past. Ken had no idea the stories Treva told were lies.
One day Treva told him that she had been the victim of yet another rape, one that occurred more recently. She claimed that in 1997 a 47-year-old security guard raped her in his car near Vancouver Lake. Treva said she told the police and the man was promptly arrested. The man Treva referred to was Charles W. Blankenship who in March 1998 was sentenced to 365 days in jail (315 of which were suspended) for “communicating with a minor (Treva) for immoral purposes, a gross misdemeanor.” No one knew that Treva’s real age at the time was actually 28 and not 17, as she professed to police. Moreover no one knew that Blankenship was innocent of rape. Ken later said, “Here was a beautiful girl who had been forced to endure unimaginable atrocities….and yet she was at Evergreen, waiting to make something of herself in life.” Ken was 16 and in love and “couldn’t imagine that anything could go wrong.” One of the first families she lived with in Washington State, the Fishers, were determined to give her a positive environment, however Treva’s stay was cut short. After five months they asked her to leave because they had difficulty believing she was really a teenager. uh-oh. More cracks were beginning to show.
The Fishers were not alone in their suspicions. Treva went to the dentist who made a surprising discovery. He noticed her wisdom teeth had been extracted and that the scars had fully healed, unusual for a 16-year-old. The dentist told Treva’s caseworker that he suspected she was much older than she was letting on. The caseworker then confronted Treva, “warning her that defrauding the foster-care system was a crime.” Treva vehemently denied that she lied about her age and her caseworker’s reservations were set aside. Treva was assigned to live with another foster family, the Gambettas. At first, Treva seemed to adjust well to life with the family. They went out of their way to make her feel accepted, realizing she came from an abusive situation. One day in 1999 David Gambetta, Treva’s foster father learned the police were asking after him. Treva went to the police and accused him of spying on her with a camera in her bedroom. The accusation was a major blow to David and his family, which almost ended in his arrest. Treva found herself once again looking for a new home.
Treva found a new home with a Portland police officer and his wife with whom she lived in June 2000. It was during her stay with the family that the truth about Treva surfaced. The discovery of her real identity proved to be a shock not only to her foster parents but also to everyone who knew her. Ken was especially surprised that the girl he went to the homecoming dance with was actually 12 years his senior. Treva’s arrest in March 2001 led to a new investigation into the rape allegations against Charles Blankenship. It didn’t take long for the authorities to realize an injustice had been done because she was not underage at the time. Blankenship “lost his job because of the incident,” and was pardoned for the crime. The false charge was one of many allegations later made against Treva.There was little doubt that Treva was sexually abused as a child, especially considering her sisters accounts of their childhood. As a result, the trauma likely led to increased bouts of depression and anxiety, which she often suffered throughout her teenage years and was most evident when she exhibited suicidal tendencies.
Her behavioral problems could have thus intensified developing into a personality disorder. Many psychologists who analyzed Treva’s case came up with varying diagnosis, such as Dissociative Identity Disorder (aka Multiple Personality Disorder which occurs when one alternates between two or more distinct identities), Dissociative Fugue (a rare form of short-term amnesia that occurs under stress whereby a person forgets vital aspects of who they are and what they have done and replaces the lost information with that which is newly fabricated) and even Munchausen Syndrome (when one repeatedly fabricates physical illness in order to gain attention from others.
The jury found Treva guilty of seven counts of fraud and perjury and the judge sentenced her to three years and two months in the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. Treva was devastated that the jury did not believe her. Finally on June 18, 2003, after serving two years, Treva was released from prison. Even after her incarceration she maintains that she is 13 years younger than her original birth certificate states and claims she has the documentation to prove it. This time, she speaks the truth at least concerning the documentation because the Washington Department of Licensing gave her an ID card with her name listed as Brianna Stewart and her birth date as December 22, 1981, which makes her 21 years old. To look at her, I can’t help but think she looks more like 30. Treva lives in Washington State and is appealing her fraud conviction to the State Supreme Court. She will never give up fighting for official recognition as Brianna Stewart. For her, Treva is long dead.