Acid Attack Hoax Shocks Friends, Family; Businesses Work to Return Donations

Bethany Storro, 28, could face charges filing false police report.

ByEMILY FRIEDMAN via via logo
September 13, 2010, 3:57 PM

Sept. 17, 2010 — -- The revelation that Bethany Storro splashed acid in her own face has left her friends and family shocked, particularly those who rushed to her defense in the days following her maiming.

Pamela Storro, Storro's former mother-in-law, told ABC News earlier this week that rumors that the acid attack was a hoax were "insane" and that there was "no way" her former daughter in law would do this to herself.

When reached today by ABC News, Pamela Storro declined to speak, other than to say she is in disbelief over Storro's admission that she did, in fact, fake the attack.

"I'm shocked," was all that Pamela Storro would say of her former daughter-in-law's alleged confession.

John Pax, the gym owner who held a fundraising to help offset Storro's medical expenses following the attack, said that he too is in "disbelief."

"We put aside our business because we found someone in need, one of our own members," he said. "We felt for her."

Vancouver Police announced Thursday that 28-year-old Storro had fabricated the Aug. 30 attack that left her severely burned and garnered media attention worldwide -- including an invitation to appear on Oprah Winfrey's talk show.

Storro had originally told authorities a stranger had splashed acid in her face while she walked through a popular park Vancouver, Wash.

But police said that soon after they began investigating the claims -- which included releasing a sketch of a suspect Storro claimed was responsible for the attack -- facts weren't adding up.

"Truthfully there were red flags from the beginning," Vancouver Police Commander Marla Schuman told "Good Morning America" today. "Initially just the manner of the attack, when she's talking about being splashed in the face with acid and the demarcation, the placement of injuries on her face… the thought that she was wearing sunglasses at 7:30 at night when she normally doesn't wear sunglasses. Just small things that didn't quite add up to a picture of normalcy.

"Things really weren't adding up," Schuman said.

Police, announcing their investigation was closed Thursday, said they had spent hundreds of hours looking for a perpetrator and did not speculate on Storro's motive.

"She doesn't have a criminal history, we didn't have knowledge of any mental issues," Schuman said today.

Storro's seemingly horrifying story captured international attention and spawned donations to a fund set up for her. Schuman said Storro could face charges if they determine Storro accessed those funds, in addition to a possible charge for filing a false report.

Bethany Storro's Acid Attack Was Self-Inflicted

According to Anytime Fitness owner Pax, nobody close to Storro believed that she could have faked the attack, even when media speculation grew after she pulled out of a schedule appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

"Obviously [Storro] needs help," said Pax. "And I hope she gets it."

Pax held a fundraiser at his gym last week where he offered a self-defense class at a discounted price to attract more participants. The class, which cost $20 per person, was attended by around 80 people said Pax, garnering more than $800 for Storro's fund.

Storro's mother, Nancy Neuwelt, attended the class. Pax said that he spoke with Neuwelt yesterday and she was devestated and apologetic over everything that happened.

"She was shocked as well, and crying," said Pax. "She didn't know [her daughter had faked it] until we did."

"She kept telling us that she hadn't touched the money and was thanking us for believing in her," said Pax.

The money, according to Pax, was turned over to the bank holding on to the account, Riverview Community Bank.

A spokesperson for the bank told ABC News that "quite a buildup of funds had occurred" over the past few weeks. They are still trying to determine how to return the money to donors.

"The account has been frozen until all of this settles down," said bank spokeswoman Phyllis Kreibich. Donations had come in from all over the country, according to the bank.

Storro's Dramatic Tale

Storro originally told police that the woman who attacked her had approached her and said, "Hey pretty girl," causing her to turn around. Then the woman threw a cup of liquid in Storro's face.

Storro appeared on "Good Morning America," her head covered in gauze.

"It was like it almost didn't hurt right away because of the panic, you know, like, what just happened, and you're so focused on that, and then once I let it soak in I could start to feel it burning through my flesh," she said from her hospital bed. She said that by sheer luck, she had bought a pair of sunglasses just minutes before, which protected her eyes.

But as days went on, the attention grew. Storro was invited to be a guest on Oprah Winfrey's show, but then news outlets began to report suggestions that police suspected the attack was faked. On Tuesday the Oprah appearance was canceled.

In a post on her Facebook page last week, which has since been removed, Storro wrote that while she had originally wanted to appear on the show to "inspire people and tell them about Jesus," she changed her mind.

"The show was going to possibly turn into another direction, so my family and I decided not to go on," she wrote. "I hope you understand and will still check in on me."

A spokeswoman for Winfrey's show confirmed to that Storro had canceled her appearance during which she was expected to speak about "her account of being attacked and scarred with acid." No reason for the cancellation was given by the show.

A Vancouver Voice reporter wrote about visiting the park where Storro was allegedly attacked and spoke to witnesses -- homeless people who identified themselves only by their street names -- who said Storro was "clearly alone when she dropped to the ground screaming."

Storro herself has not yet addressed the media since it was revealed the attack was self-inflicted.

ABC News' Lee Ferran and Ned Potter contributed to this report.

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