The touching story of how Specialist Jonathan Kenney took a bullet meant for an Iraqi child on 29 January was reported by the Colorado media after a news release was sent to them by the non-profit group Homefront Heroes.

In reality, there is no record of a soldier with that name dying in Iraq. Sarah Kenney is married to a man named Michael Kenney, and he is neither currently in the military nor serving in Iraq.

"I think I need some serious counselling," Sarah later said, confessing she had made up the story.

"This is the most serious lie I have ever told, but I have been caught in many lies."

Mesa county district-attorney Pete Hautzinger said he had convened a team of investigators to look into the hoax and see if any laws were broken.

Phyllis Derby, founder and president of Homefront Heroes, said Kenney convinced her group the story was true. The account of the fictitious man's death was then released to local media.

"I would have never thought in a billion years that she was lying to me," Derby said. She said the donations on behalf of the fictitious soldier would be returned.