Police say Washington woman fabricated attack, threw acid in own face
VANCOUVER, Wash. – When the initial shock faded, police in this suburb of Portland, Ore., began to question some details in Bethany Storro's account of the day her face was irreparably burned by acid.
Why, they asked, did the burn patterns of the acid not reflect Storro's account of a stranger tossing it in her face? Why was she wearing sunglasses — something she said she never did — just after 7 p.m. on Aug. 30?
And why did no one see the alleged assailant?
Those questions culminated in a search warrant served at Storro's house on Thursday, when she admitted that she fabricated the story of a stranger's attack. Instead, she said, she did it to herself.
The attack drew worldwide sympathy. Facebook groups were formed to draw attention to her plight. A fundraiser was planned in Vancouver, and donation sites were established at branches of two local banks.
So it was in a soft-spoken voice that Vancouver police chief Clifford Cook told reporters on Thursday that Storro invented the story.
"During the course of the investigation, several discrepancies began to emerge regarding the alleged attack," Cook said. "During the interview, Ms. Storro admitted the injuries were self-inflicted."
Cook said he did not know a motive for Storro's actions, but added she is "very remorseful." He said Storro was still being interviewed by detectives during a press conference on Thursday.
Police had been seeking a black woman with a ponytail after Storro described the alleged attack. She had said the woman asked her, "Hey, pretty girl, want something to drink?" then threw acid in her face.
After the incident, Storro made several media appearances, but a planned interview on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was canceled. She said she had received correspondence from people around the world concerned for her well being.
She recounted details of the alleged attack at a news conference, with her head wrapped in bandages and her parents by her side. She said she wanted to know why the unnamed assailant had attacked her.
Funds were set up for Storro at Umpquah and Riverview Community banks. Messages to the banks were not immediately returned Thursday.
Vancouver police Commander Marla Schuman said detectives were working on a way to return any money donated to Storro.
Cook said any decision to charge Storro with a crime would be left to the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Clark County Senior Deputy Prosecutor John Fairgrieve did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday.
"She is extremely upset," Schuman said. "In many ways, this got bigger than she expected."
Schuman was asked whether Storro will face a charge of filing a false police report, to which she responded: "At this point, yes, that would certainly fit."
A burn surgeon who operated on Storro said the substance thrown on her face was an acid as strong as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.
Police said Thursday that they haven't yet identified the substance Storro used, nor did they find any evidence of acid in her home or car.