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Crime & Courts

Woman pleads not guilty in Wash. in acid hoax case

Her face red and blotchy, the woman who splashed acid in her face in what was a bizarre hoax made a brief court appearance Wednesday and was ordered by a judge to live in a mental health facility while she awaits trial.

Bethany Storro, 28, has confessed that she made up the story about the facial burns she suffered Aug. 30, saying she put drain cleaner on her face trying to kill herself or alter her appearance, according to police. She pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three theft counts.

The case drew national attention to the recently divorced woman who works for a grocery chain, and brought in nearly $28,000 in donations to help with medical bills.

The donations are now at the center of Storro's criminal trial, which is scheduled for Dec. 20. Court records show Storro spent about $1,500 of the donations on such things as dinners for her parents, clothes for herself and a bill for an August laser facial peel.

The accounts containing the donations have been frozen and her parents have said the money will be returned.

The hearing was the first time Storro had been in public since a hospital press conference Sept. 1 when her head was covered with bandaging. Her face had large red blotches Wednesday, but was significantly less swollen than her last public appearance.

Storro spoke two words during her brief appearance, answering "yes" when Judge John Nichols asked her whether she understood the charges and whether she was pleading not guilty.

Storro was followed by cameras and reporters after leaving the courtroom. She walked about 40 feet from the courthouse complex to a waiting car and didn't respond to a barrage of questions from journalists.

Nichols ordered Storro to live at the Elahan Place mental health facility in Vancouver, Wash., until her trial.

A spokeswoman for Elahan Place described it as a 24-hour residential community. As a resident, Storro would be required to participate in therapy sessions and clean her room. The spokeswoman, Pat Stryker, declined to speak specifically about Storro's case.

Storro was not asked to pay any bail. According to the terms of her release, her travel is restricted to Clark County, Wash., and the Portland, Ore., metro area. She is also forbidden from drinking alcohol or possessing firearms.

Umpqua Bank, one of two banks that held fundraisers for Storro after the supposed attack, said Wednesday that it would return all donations to those who have receipts. A spokeswoman said the bank would donate the remainder of the donations to the Legacy Emanuel Hospital's Oregon Burn Center, where Storro recovered after burning herself.

Neither Clark County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik nor Storro's attorney, Andrew Wheeler, spoke to the media after the hearing.

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