Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Treva Throneberry: The Girl Who Refused to Grow Up

The Girl Who Refused to Grow Up

Treva Throneberry as Brianna Stewart
Treva Throneberry as Brianna
Brianna Stewart was not the most popular girl in school. She was a little different from other girls. She moved awkwardly, wore her hair in pigtails and dressed in bib overalls, which many of the girls at Washington  State 's Evergreen High School considered passé.  Though unusual, she was liked by most of the students. In fact, they thought of her as a courageous girl.

Many who knew Brianna had some knowledge of her tragic life, something that she was not ashamed to hide. She claimed she had seen her mother brutally murdered by her father. She told horrible stories of having been repeatedly raped by her father and his friends. Then at the age of 12, she purportedly ran away from home only to live on the streets and in countless foster homes, in different cities throughout the country. Eventually, she made her way to Washington  State and into the good graces of several families who took her into their homes while she worked her way through high school.

Evergreen High School
Evergreen High School
The traumatic experiences she endured seemed unimaginable, yet Brianna was determined to make the most of her life. She had dreams of becoming a lawyer and a champion for children's rights. Most importantly, her biggest aspiration was to just have a "normal life" something, for which she always yearned.    

Brianna knew that to fulfill her dream, she needed to finish school and get a job so she could afford to attend college. To do that she needed a Social Security number, which she quickly set about getting. She hoped to obtain it before her June 2000 graduation date. However, it would prove to be more difficult than she ever imagined, especially since she didn't have a birth certificate or even know where she was born. Furthermore, none of the schools she attended nor the social welfare agencies that helped Brianna had any record of her birth.  

Brianna's lack of paperwork made it almost impossible for her to prove her identity. Skip Hollandsworth stated in his 2002 Texas Monthly article that she enlisted the help of two lawyers, one in Vancouver, Washington, and one in Portland, Oregon, who set about petitioning their government so that Brianna could obtain a birth certificate that would eventually enable her to obtain a Social Security number.

In Portland, Brianna was asked to submit to fingerprint tests, which was customary in such cases. Excited that the lengthy process was finally coming to an end, she readily agreed. If everything worked out, she would be officially recognized as Brianna Stewart.

In March 2001, Brianna was scheduled to appear for a court hearing in Vancouver  that would allow her to secure her identity. Yet, her long battle to obtain her birth certificate and Social Security number would prove fruitless. Vancouver Detective Scott Smith made sure of that.

On March 22, Smith arrested Brianna on charges of theft and fraud. He discovered that Brianna was not the girl she purported to be, based on the fingerprint samples she previously submitted to prove her identity. In fact, 18-year-old Brianna Stewart was actually 31-year-old Treva Throneberry, who had managed to defraud state government agencies out of thousands of dollars in foster care and education fees.

What made Treva's case most interesting was that, she wasn't just playing the part of Brianna Stewart, she actually had become her. Surprisingly, she claimed not to know who Treva Throneberry was. Many wondered whether her fraudulent identity was a deliberate ploy to con the government out of money and to get free lodging from unsuspecting caregivers or was it symptomatic of some inexplicable psychological disorder. To date, psychologists continue to seek answers to in order to understand why the female equivalent of Peter Pan just plain refused to grow up.

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