September 17, 2010 in Region

Few in Vancouver are angry at acid hoax woman

Nigel Duara Associated Press
 

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The scars on her face were real, but her story about being splashed with acid was a horrific hoax.

A day after Bethany Storro’s revelation turned the victim who drew worldwide sympathy into a curiosity and the object of much derision, few who banded together here to collect money for her medical bills were angry with her today.

They were just puzzled: What could bring the 28-year-old grocery store worker to disfigure herself in such a public way, and invent a tale about a black woman assaulting her with a cup of acid?

Storro’s mother is “just worried about her mental health,” said friend John Pax, whose gym hosted a fundraiser that netted nearly $1,000. “But no one’s asked for their money back yet. No one’s angry.

“We just worry about her,” he said.

Some in the black community were saddened that someone claiming to be a crime victim had again placed an African-American in the role of villain.

“I’m not angry at all, and the reason is that this has happened many times before, unfortunately,” said Margo Bryant, president of the Vancouver branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Bryant praised the police, and said she didn’t hear of any blacks in the area being questioned.

“At least (police) were willing to accept that this individual was not telling the truth, or not automatically accept she was telling the truth because she is white,” Bryant said.

Police on Friday were planning to turn the case over to prosecutors. Storro could face charges of filing a false police report.

Storro told police a stranger in a ponytail accosted her near a small park on Aug. 30, uttering the now-infamous words — “Hey, pretty girl, want something to drink?” — before scorching her face.

Instantly, her tale grabbed the headlines. And only grew when she appeared before reporters, her head bandaged and alongside her parents, to ask a nameless, faceless attacker: Why?

Storro said it was only chance and, perhaps, divine providence that led her to purchase a pair of sunglasses just minutes earlier.

Umpqua Bank took up a collection to help her pay medical bills, raising “a few thousand” dollars, said bank spokeswoman Lani Hayward. By Friday, no one asked for their donation back, she said.

Police grew more suspicious, as inconsistencies in her story began to add up.

They searched her home and her car. They wanted to know why no witnesses had seen an assailant. Why didn’t the splash pattern of the acid jibe with Storro’s account. And, finally, why would Storro be wearing sunglasses just after 7 p.m.?

Under questioning, she folded.

But the question of her motive remains unanswered.

Pax, the gym owner, said the tall tale wouldn’t make city residents more reluctant to help out the next time someone is in need.

“This is a close-knit community,” he said. “It’s safe here. If something like this happened again, we wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.”

© Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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