Acid Attack Hoaxer Bethany Storro Says She Was Suffering From Mental Illness - Exclusive
ABC News' Abbie Boudreau, Sabina Ghebremedhin and Derick Yanehiro report:
Bethany Storro drew a wave of national sympathy when she told police that a stranger had doused her face with acid. But she quickly went from victim to villain when the public learned that she'd harmed herself with the acid and lied about being attacked.
Now, in an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired today on "Good Morning America," Storro, 30, discussed how she used the acid on herself in a failed suicide attempt because of a then-undiagnosed mental illness called body dysmorphic disorder. The illness causes an obsession with minor or imagined physical flaws.
"In the mirror, I saw a distorted monster. It was, like, my eyes were gouging out, my face was just, it was just terrible," she said, speaking in her first broadcast interview since the incident on Aug. 30, 2010, in the state of Washington.
Finally, when she couldn't bear the face she saw in the mirror anymore, she says, she turned to liquid acid to end her life.
"I held it up to my face and I could feel it burning through my skin. Like, melting into my face. And I was just, I was so happy," she said.
But when the pain became unbearable, Storro says, she couldn't bring herself to drink the acid.
"So I'm freaking out, like, 'This isn't working. What am I going to do now?'" she said, recalling the incident.
She drove down the street, screaming for help, and she got it. People surrounded her, and one of them asked her whether someone had attacked her.
"I was clueless and I just said, 'Yes,' and that's when it all began," she said.
Storro told police that she was attacked outside a Vancouver, Wash., coffee shop by an African-American woman who approached her and asked her whether she wanted something to drink. She claimed the woman said, "Hey, pretty girl," and then threw a cup of acid into her face, disfiguring her.
Police set off on an intense search for the alleged attacker, but soon began to suspect that Storro had faked the story.
A Vancouver Voice reporter interviewed witnesses who were in the park where Storro was allegedly attacked and they said Storro was alone when she dropped to the ground and started screaming.
Storro told ABC News that she never intended to blame someone else, but said she began to believe her own lies, and relished the attention she was getting as a result of the widespread media attention.
"In that moment I felt like I was cared for and I mattered," she said.
Storro held a news conference shortly after surgery, with her head wrapped in gauze, and was booked as a guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," but canceled the appearance.
After two weeks during which police investigated the story, Storro confessed that she had lied. Her parents, Joe and Nancy Neuwelt, did not know about her deception or the severity of her illness. Storro said she never reached out to them for help.
Storro pleaded guilty to lying to police and was also charged with three counts of second-degree theft after going on a shopping spree with donation money intended for her recovery.
The theft charges were later dismissed after Storro repaid the money and spent one year at a mental-health treatment facility in Washington.
Storro told ABC News that she "made a mistake.
"I hope that people forgive me and give me a chance. Because I'm, I'm a good person," she said. "I promise I am."