Prosecutor: Bethany Storro to face theft charges

Prosecutor: Bethany Storro to face theft charges »Play Video
Bethany Storro

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Bethany Storro, the 28-year-old woman who admitted to burning her own face with acid, will face three second-degree theft charges, according to deputy prosecutor Tony Golik.

Golik said there is probable cause to arrest her and a warrant has been issued for her arrest but she’s currently at a local hospital. He said police will arrest her when it is appropriate.

Golik said the charges are for money that was taken from people who donated to help her.

The counts carry potential “aggravating circumstances” because the alleged crimes were committed against people acting as Good Samaritans, he said.

Golik said the standard sentencing range for such crimes range from two to five months.

The aggravating circumstances, however, allows a judge to sentence a person up to five years for three counts.

According to Vancouver police, Storro admitted to them last Thursday that she made up the story of a black woman throwing acid on her face on the evening of Aug. 30 near Esther Short Park.

Storro initially said the woman approached her and said something like, “Hey, pretty girl,” before throwing the acid on her face.

After finding “several discrepancies” with the alleged attack, police were able to obtain a search warrant of her parents’ home where she was staying. During a subsequent interview, police said Storro admitted to them that her wounds were self-inflicted.

Investigators said Storro's attack was not like other acid attacks in Washington and Arizona and Storro's doctors said the burns on her face were not consistent with acid being thrown on her face.

According to court documents, Storro allegedly stole money, by using deception, from a Michael Kite, Anytime Fitness and Safeway.

According to the documents, $800 was raised during a Sept. 11 fundraiser at Safeway and that a fund at Umpqua Bank in Vancouver has almost $4,600 in funds raised to help Storro. An account at Riverview Savings in Vancouver has about $20,000 for Storro.

After Storro admitted to disfiguring herself, Kite e-mailed an investigator in the case, saying he had given Storro $1,000 through a PayPal account.

Storro also told an investigator that while she was in the hospital, a man from Safeway she thought was named "Michael," gave her a personal check for $3,000. That check was deposited in her own account at a Wells Fargo Bank in Vancouver.

According to the investigator, Storro said she spent about half of that money on dinners for her parents, a train ticket for her sister, items at Target, clothes, and a round-trip for she and her mother to Seattle on Sept. 12 on a train. She also said she paid off most of the bill for a $620 "laser facial peel" she got in August.

Possible motivation

According to the court documents, Storro confessed to burning her face with drain cleaner hours before the incident was called in to 9-1-1 dispatchers. She applied the acid using gloves and a towel in a park restroom near Clark College.

She told investigators she wanted to kill herself, and if that didn't happen, at the very least get cosmetic surgery on her face.

"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.

Investigators said Storro told them she didn't think she would get caught.

"I thought there would be no evidence of me doing it myself. And then you guys - I thought that you guys would give up on trying to find the person and it would be done," she said, according to investigators.

Storro’s parents, Jim and Nancy Neuwelt, apologized on her behalf on Friday.

“We are deeply sorry for what happened,” Jim Neuwelt said during an afternoon news conference.

Her parents said they realize there was betrayal and they said Storro is sorry, too.

"Bethany is extremely sorry for the pain to her friends, family, her co-workers at Safeway and friends at Anytime Fitness in Vancouver," Storro's mother, Nancy said.

Her parents said they did the right thing in standing by their daughter when they told them someone had attacked her.

“As any good parent would, we stood by our daughter when she told us these different scenarios,” said Neuwelt. “We stood by her, we believed her. Any good parent would do that.”

He said that up until Thursday, they believed their daughter's story.

"There was no reason to doubt her at all," Neuwelt said.

Her parents said they will return all of the money collected on Storro’s behalf.

On Friday, Nancy Neuwelt said there was no indications their daughter would do anything like this and they didn't know why.

"It is our hope the medical community can find the answers, and she's obviously dealing with some deep internal emotional and psychological problems we had no knowledge of. We hope she gets the help she needs," she said.

A family friend said Storro started counseling Friday.