How should the acid hoax case be handled?
VANCOUVER, Wash. -- A Vancouver woman will face charges in court Wednesday after she admitted faking an attack in which her face was doused in acid.
Bethany Storro will make her first appearance Wednesday morning at 8:45 a.m. on aggravated second degree theft charges, according to Clark County judge John Nichol’s office. She is expected to plead not guilty.
The Clark County prosecutors’ office says she will present herself before the court and then likely walk to the jail for processing. She’s retained attorney Andrew Wheeler to represent her.
Storro was set to be charged with three counts of theft with aggravating circumstances in connection with fundraisers after the August 30 incident, according to Clark County prosecutors. She has been hospitalized since the charges were filed earlier this week.
An investigation indicated that the reported acid attack on Storro was self-inflicted, Vancouver police said last week. Storro said she was hit in the face with the liquid near the Esther Park area of downtown Vancouver.
"I thought there would be no evidence of me doing it to myself," Storro told police. "And then you guys -- I thought that you guys would give up on trying to find the person and it would be done," court documents showed
Court documents showed Storro said she self-administered the acid to her face with drain cleaner purchased in a local hardware store. Storro bought a pair of gloves at the time, records showed.
Storro told a detective that at first, she was trying to kill herself. Secondly, she stated, if that proved not to be fatal, then she could get her face redone.
"Then when I realized it wasn't killing me, I thought maybe this was the answer to all my problems. To have a completely different face," she said.
She said she bought the gloves to wear while using towels to apply the custic substance to her face in a restroom of a park near Clark college, hours before she reported being attacked.
"Her motives for doing what she did are her's and when we get to trial I'll have my arguments about what her motives were," said prosecutor Tony Golik.
According to the arresting officer's affidavit, there were no witnesses to the attack; the burn pattern on her face was even, not splash marks; there were no burns on the eyes, hair ears or lips and that he burning substance appears to have been applied, rather than splashed. There was no physical evidence at the scene and no sunglasses were ever found.
Doctors who treated Storro in the burn unit at Legacy Emanuel told investigators they were suspicious about the burn pattern on her face.
Storro initially told police she was getting something out of the passenger side of her car before heading into a Starbucks when a woman walked up to her and said "hey pretty girl, do you want to drink this?" before she threw the liquid onto her face and ran off.
Storro stumbled about in pain and fell to the ground screaming. A passerby called police using Storro's cellphone.
She described her attacker as an African American woman and a sketch was later released by investigators.
Storro said that while in the hospital, a Safeway representative gave her a check for $3,000, which was placed into her personal account.
She said she spent about $1,500 of the money on dinners for her parents, a train ticket for her sister, "stuff at Target" clothes for herself and round-trip train tickets to Seattle for her and her mother for the weekend of Sept. 12. She also used the money to pay off a $620 bill to a Portland clinic where she had a laser peel two weeks before she burned herself.
A fund set up at Umpqua Bank for Storro, in the name of her mother Nancy Neuwelt, has accumulated $4,596.04. That included $800 from a fundraiser at Anytime Fitness.
An account at Riverview Savings Bank in Vancouver has $20,000 in Storro's name. The bank had held a fundraising golf tournament for her.
"I don't think anyone is really mad about what she did, just more sad," said John Pax who hosted a fundraiser at Anytime Fitness. "Why would someone do something like that to themselves."
Outside their Vancouver home last week, Joseph and Nancy Neuwelt apologized to the community, saying each believed "as any good parent would" that their daughter had been the victim of an attack.
They said they did not know until Thursday that the ordeal was a hoax.
They also apologized on Storro's behalf to her co-workers at Safeway and fellow members of Anytime Fitness, who were planning a fundraiser in her honor. Joseph Neuwelt said all money donated to his daughter's relief fund will be returned through the proper channels.