Image: Bethany Storro
Don Ryan  /  AP
Bethany Storro, who falsely claimed a stranger threw acid in her face, walks out of court in Vancouver, Wash., on Wednesday.
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updated 9/30/2010 7:59:47 AM ET 2010-09-30T11:59:47

Her face red and blotchy but largely unbandaged, a 28-year-old Vancouver woman pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges arising from her false claim that a stranger splashed acid in her face.

Bethany Storro has confessed that she made up the story about the facial burns she suffered Aug. 30, saying she put drain cleaner on her face trying to kill herself. The case drew national attention to the recently divorced woman who works for a grocery chain, and brought in nearly $28,000 in donations to help with medical bills.

Storro faces three theft charges. Court records show spent about $1,500 of the donations on such things as dinners for her parents, clothes for herself and a bill for an August laser facial peel.

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The accounts containing the donations have been frozen and her parents have said the money will be returned.

The hearing in Clark County Superior Court was the first time she'd been in public since a hospital press conference Sept. 1 when her head was covered with bandaging. On Wednesday, she had one small bandage on her nose.

Standing between prosecutor Tony Golik and her attorney, Andrew Wheeler, Storro spoke two words during her brief appearance, answering "yes" when Judge John Nichols asked her whether she understood the charges and whether she was pleading not guilty.

The prosecution doesn't consider her a flight risk, and she hasn't been jailed.

After the hearing, Storro walked about 40 feet from the courthouse complex to a waiting car and didn't respond to a barrage of questions from journalists.

Her trial is scheduled Dec. 20.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Woman behind alleged acid hoax faces judge

  1. Transcript of: Woman behind alleged acid hoax faces judge

    MATT LAUER, co-host: The Washington state woman who has admitted to putting acid on her own face appeared in court for the first time on Wednesday. NBC 's Peter Alexander 's in Vancouver , Washington , with the latest on this. Peter , good morning to you.

    PETER ALEXANDER reporting: Matt, good morning to you. You likely remember this story, Bethany Storro in that emotional news conference earlier this month claiming a woman threw acid on her face. Later, of course, police tell us that she admitted it was all a lie. But now for the first time we are seeing her without those bandages, but this time standing before a judge. Inside this courtroom, Bethany Storro 's severe self-inflicted burns were finally revealed. The 28-year-old's face deep red and scarred with only a small bandage on her nose.

    Ms. BETHANY STORRO: Yes, your honor.

    ALEXANDER: In her first court appearance, Storro pleaded not guilty to three felony theft charges. Last month, after lying to the public and police claiming an African-American woman approached her on the street and threw acid in her face, Storro was flooded with support from the community that raised nearly $30,000 to help her. Prosecutors say Storro spent $ 1500 of the donated money.

    Mr. TONY GOLICK (Clark County Deputy Prosecutor): Part of it was spent on meals, Red Robin , train tickets up to Seattle .

    Ms. STORRO: I want people to know what this person did to me and the trauma it's caused me.

    ALEXANDER: Just two weeks after this emotional news conference, police say Storro admitted the whole story was a hoax, confessing that she repeatedly dabbed her own face with drain cleaner. Court papers reveal doctors and detectives were skeptical of Storro 's story from the start. Her burn marks were "even," as if the acid had been applied, not thrown. There were "no splash marks" on Storro 's body or her clothes, and "no physical evidence" at the scene.

    Storro's parents apologized for her actions and made this promise: We will lean on our faith and our family and our friends and our community to get our daughter the medical attention that she needs and the counseling that she deserves.

    Mr. JOE NEUWELT (Bethany Storro's Father): After Wednesday's hearing, Storro was booked into jail and immediately released, the judge ordering her to follow the rules of this psychiatric treatment center where Storro agreed to stay until her trial is set to begin in December. So why'd she do it? Storro told detectives she wanted to die or at least to "have a completely different face."

    ALEXANDER: Destroying your face is destroying,

    Dr. GAIL SALTZ (Psychiatrist): 'Now I look as hurt and damaged on the outside as I feel on the inside.'

    essentially, your identity: Prosecutors say John Pax , the co-owner of a local fitness center , is one of Storro 's alleged victims who raised and donated hundreds of dollars to help her.

    ALEXANDER: I think she just needs help.

    Mr. JOHN PAX: Initially, Storro appeared to show strength amidst adversity.

    ALEXANDER: In time I'm going to forgive her.

    Ms. STORRO: Now some of her alleged victims may forgive her, even if the legal system does not. And Storro 's parents say that all the donated money will be returned. The bank that's holding that money says it has been frozen. Any claims that are not returned or picked up by individuals, they say, will be turned over to a

    ALEXANDER:

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