Georgia woman faked cancer diagnosis, collected $15K in donations, deputies say

POLK COUNTY, Ga. — For a year, authorities said a Georgia woman used Facebook, her church and other people in her community to raise money for her cancer treatment. The problem is that she wasn’t sick.

Polk County police said 22-year-old Katie Lynn Shellhorse collected thousands of dollars from the Cedartown area in a case of deception.

In April, authorities began investigating the case after they received a tip from a family member of Shellhorse that she was telling people she had cancer when she really didn’t.

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Polk County police said Shellhorse received nearly $15,000 in donations from her neighbors, churches and several other fundraising efforts. The exact amount of money is still being investigated.

She even went as far as shaving her head multiple times to play the part, authorities said.

A family member told authorities that the money was used to buy marijuana and alcohol. The family member said “she needs to be stopped because she is using people and lying.”


On Tuesday, authorities arrested Shellhorse and charged her with felony theft by deception.

People in the community have taken to Facebook to express their shock and anger over the allegations. Many people said they donated money and even prayed for her and her family.

“So this girl really had my whole family praying for her and send her about 400 dollars in donations just to come out and say she was faking CANCER!!!???” one person wrote.

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Members of Shellhorse’s family released a statement Wednesday, saying:

“When the family was told in July 2020 of Katie’s Peritoneal cancer diagnosis, we were devastated and feared what this would mean for her young husband and two small daughters. As any family would, we supported her and rallied around her. In December, we were told the cancer was terminal and again, we grieved.

“After a few months we grew suspicious and we started keeping records of Katie’s claims. We didn’t understand why her doctor wouldn’t allow a family member to accompany her to visits or why her experience was so different from anyone we’d ever known who dealt with cancer. Our questions were always answered in detail, but we had no proof of our doubts. We researched and gathered backup information on the doubts as much as we could and we made taking care of the children and keeping them safe our main priority

“Finally, we felt that we had ample evidence, and with our family’s blessing, filed a police report. Katie’s husband was informed and he confronted her and insisted that she prove her diagnosis. Finally, she admitted that she falsely claimed to have cancer. Her husband insisted that she go to the police department and admit that the report was true.

“Our family has been devastated by this event. We had no foreknowledge of her plan to misguide and we will not defend it. We are deeply saddened that our community was deceived. We pray for all that were affected and believe that justice will be served.”

Police are still looking for people who donated to Shellhorse. If you believe you sent her money, you’re asked to Detective Bowman at 678-246-5107.

Detectives said you need to have documented proof of your donation, such as the dollar amount, mode of donation, receipt, etc.

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