Mother, son alleged to use mouse in soup to extort $500,000


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A woman who said she found a mouse in her soup at a Cracker Barrel restaurant last month made up the story, the local prosecutor's office announced.

Carla Patterson, 36, and her son, Ricky Patterson, 20, both of Hampton, Va., were arrested and charged Tuesday with attempted extortion and conspiracy to commit a felony after they tried to get Cracker Barrel to give them money, said Howard E. Gwynn, the commonwealth's attorney in Newport News.

Carla Patterson was eating at the Newport News restaurant May 8 when she said she discovered the mouse in a bowl of vegetable soup. Her screams prompted other patrons to leave the restaurant, and the incident caused Cracker Barrel to stop serving vegetable soup at all its 497 stores nationwide.

The Pattersons were arrested after officials from Cracker Barrel met the Pattersons at an undisclosed location and handed them a check, Gwynn said.

Julie Davis, a Cracker Barrel spokeswoman, said the Pattersons had demanded $500,000 from the company,

Under the deal that Cracker Barrel had arranged with the Pattersons, the restaurant chain was to turn over the money in exchange for pictures of the mouse that Ricky Patterson had taken with his cell-phone camera. Ricky Patterson also was to publicly admit that he had made up the story, the spokeswoman said. But instead of getting the check, the Pattersons were arrested.

An autopsy of the mouse showed that the rodent had not drowned, was not cooked and had no soup in its internal system. The mouse, Davis said, had died of a skull fracture.

An independent audit indicated it would have been impossible for the mouse to make it through the soup-making process in one piece, she said.

The Daily Press of Newport News, Va., is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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