Acid Attack Hoax Woman Charged with Theft

Bethany Storro, 28, after random attack with acid by total stranger in Vancouver, Wash. CBS

A woman who splashed a caustic substance on her face and claimed a stranger had attacked her faces three theft charges related to the nearly $28,000 donated to benefit her, a prosecutor says.

The felony second-degree charges filed Monday by Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Tony Golik relate to donations collected for Bethany Storro after she was chemically burned Aug. 30.

Court records indicate Storro said she has spent about $1,500 of the money - on such items as dinners for her parents, clothes for herself, and a bill for an August laser facial peel. Golik said the accounts containing donated money have since been frozen.

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Golik told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he issued an arrest warrant for Storro. But he said she was hospitalized as of Monday evening. He didn't know why or where, but he said police knew her location.

The prosecutor said he would leave it up to the lead detective to decide when to arrest the 28-year-old woman, who admitted to police last Thursday that her injuries were self-inflicted. Storro's parents have said all money raised for her will be returned.

Storro said she was trying to kill herself when she put what is believed to be caustic drain cleaner on her face, according to a police affidavit filed in Clark County Superior Court.

"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, according to the affidavit filed by Detective Wally Stefan.

Regarding the investigation, Storro told police, "I thought there would be no evidence of me doing it to myself. And then you guys - I thought that you guys would give up on trying to find the person and it would be done."

In the affidavit, police tallied the story's inconsistencies, noting the pattern of burns on her face looked more like a "cosmetically applied mask" than the pattern on other acid attack victims. Also, police could find no record of Storro purchasing the sunglasses she said she had bought shortly before the attack and which she claimed had protected her eyes.

Police say a doctor who treated Storro at the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center burn unit in Portland, Oregon, also was suspicious of the burn pattern and Storro's story.

After police executed a search warrant last Thursday at the Vancouver home Storro shared with her parents, Joe and Nancy Neuwelt, detectives say Storro admitted making up the report of an attack. She told them she burned herself with drain cleaner bought at a local hardware store - a purchase they were able to verify.

Storro had recently moved to Vancouver in Washington state after being divorced in Idaho.

Her parents issued a public apology last Friday, saying they didn't doubt their daughter's story until she changed it under police questioning. Her mother said Storro is "obviously dealing with some deep internal emotional and psychological problems."

Golik said he was not aware of any lawyer representing Storro yet.

He filed each theft count with an aggravating factor, saying the victims were acting as Good Samaritans. Should Storro be convicted as charged, that would allow a judge to sentence her to a maximum five years, rather than the standard sentencing range of two to five months in jail, Golik said.

Storro originally told police a woman accosted her near a small Vancouver park and asked, "Hey, pretty girl, want something to drink?" before scorching her face with a cup of something acidic.

Police allege Storro wore gloves and used towels to apply the caustic substance to her face several times in a restroom at a public park near Clark College, several hours before the emergency call was made.

Vancouver police Cmdr. Marla Schuman described Storro last week as "very remorseful."

"In many ways this is something that just got bigger than what she expected," Schuman.

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