On May 3 2003, Heatherington first made Canadian and international headlines when she disappeared from a conference in Great Falls, Montana. Three days later, she was found in Las Vegas, Nevada, alleging that she had been abducted and raped. Police found her report to be inconsistent and lacking evidence, and she eventually recanted. She was charged with filing a false report to police, but pled not guilty. She continues to allege that the incident happened as reported, and that the police coerced her into recanting her original statement.
Previously, Heatherington had filed reports with Lethbridge police that she was being stalked. She was receiving sexually explicit letters from her stalker, but her reports often did not match police surveillance evidence. On 10 June 2003, she was charged with public mischief after police concluded that the stalker did not exist, and that Heatherington was likely writing the letters herself. On 8 September she pled not guilty to those charges as well.
On 29 June 2004, Heatherington was found guilty of public mischief. Although required by law to resign her council seat following her conviction, Heatherington initially refused to do so. As a result, Lethbridge city council initiated the process of having her removed through the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench. On 9 August 2004, Heatherington announced her resignation effective 10 September 2004, indicating that she would be using her time to prove her innocence Two days later, Lethbridge city council was able to force Heatherington to resign immediately. On 10 September 2004, Heatherington received a 20-month conditional sentence, consisting of eight months of house arrest followed by 10 months of curfew, and 100 hours of community service and counselling.
On 16 August 2005, Heatherington dropped her appeal of the mischief charge. Her lawyer stated that Heatherington could no longer afford to proceed, despite earlier claims that the bankruptcy would not affect her appeal. Although Heatherington still proclaims her innocence, her decision to drop her appeal may suggest that she has tacitly accepted her guilt.