In April, the Times Herald-Record published a tear-jerking story about a young Westchester bride-to-be with terminal leukemia preparing to walk down the aisle on a shoestring budget. The article struck a chord with readers in upstate Middletown, and the community rallied to give Jessica Vega, 23, her dream wedding. The rings were donated gratis, the wedding dress and photos were free, the catering hall was heavily discounted, and the happy couple flew off to their honeymoon in Aruba with donated money, using plane tickets bought by well-wishers. But now Vega's husband, Yonkers construction worker Michael O'Connell, says his wife was just faking cancer to get all that swag.
"I thought she was dying and my goal was to give her everything she wanted before she did," O'Connell tells the Daily News. "Now, I want to see the truth come out. If that means her going to jail, then let her pay for what she did." While being interviewed for the first Herald-Record article, Vega showed the reporter a letter from The Westchester Institute for Treatment of Cancer & Blood Disorders, informing her she had cancer. But this week O'Connell called the clinic with the reporter present, and was told they had no patient with that name. Reporter Doyle Murphy writes, "O'Connell hung up and pumped his fist. 'Yes! I did it!' he said."
Vega insists that she did receive the letter from the clinic, but now she doubts the accuracy of the diagnosis. She says she's seeing a new doctor and her health has improved because she no longer lives with O'Connell. Vega also claims O'Connell was abusive, and O'Connell admits he bit her on the elbow once, but only because he was trying to get out of her headlock. You can fake cancer, but marital dysfunction like that can't be faked. O'Connell has now filed for divorce, and is seeking sole custody of their 1-year-old daughter.