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Parents apologize over daughter's acid-attack hoax

The parents of a woman who admitted pouring acid on her own face and blaming a stranger's attack apologized for the hoax Friday and said she was seeking medical help and counseling.
Image: Bethany Storro
This image provided by the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center shows Bethany Storro prior to surgery.AP file
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The parents of a woman who admitted pouring acid on her own face and blaming a stranger's attack apologized for the hoax Friday and said she was seeking medical help and counseling.

Nancy and Joe Neuwelt said they don't why their daughter, Bethany Storro, lied.

"Our hope is the medical community can find the answer," Nancy Neuwelt said at a Friday news conference outside their Vancouver home. "She’s obviously dealing with some deep internal psychological problems we had no knowledge of. She has a long road ahead of her, and we are going to walk it with her."

The couple said Storro, 28, was "extremely sorry" for causing the community pain.

The Neuwelts said they each believed "as any good parent would" that their daughter had been the victim of an attack. They said did not know until Thursday that the ordeal was a hoax.

Joseph Neuwelt said all money donated to his daughter's relief fund will be returned through the proper channels.

Earlier Friday police described Storro as an "upset, shaking, crying, very sad, very sad little girl."

Speaking on the TODAY show, Commander Marla Schuman said investigators had quickly come to the conclusion that Storro had faked the Aug. 30 attack, but that "until you actually hear it from her own mouth" they could not be entirely sure.

Police Chief Clifford Cook said at a Thursday afternoon news conference that Storro told detectives the truth during an interview after increasing discrepancies emerged in her story.

Her interview was conducted after a search of her home, which she shares with her parents, police said. Interviews with her family are continuing, they said.

Police will turn over their findings to prosecutors who will decide if charges will be filed against Storro.

"We'll hand this over to the prosecuting attorney," Schuman said. "This was [an] incredibly expensive [investigation] and wasted a lot of very valuable resources."

Schuman told TODAY's Matt Lauer the Storro's family was shocked by the turnabout.

"This was not something that was on their radar screen," she said. "Her family, her friends, they were all devastated that this had happened to her. I think it came as a shock to most of them that she was actually in a state of mind and could inflict something like this. ...

"Most of us don't know how anybody could be in that state of mind and inflict what obviously had to be incredible pain upon themselves."

The revelation followed the cancellation of Storro's scheduled Thursday appearance on "Oprah."

On her Facebook, Storro had said she walked away from the interview because the show might stray from the religious inspiration she planned to deliver.

However, others in Vancouver saw the move as evidence that Storro's story was phony from the beginning.

Woman with ponytail
Storro originally claimed a black woman with a ponytail threw acid in her face at night as she was celebrating a new job and had just bought a pair of sunglasses.

Splash patterns and other parts of the story, like the wearing of sunglasses at night, led to the unraveling of Storro's story, police said.

Police said it was important to get the word of Storro's confession out immediately to assure the public knew that the Esther Park area of downtown Vancouver, scene of the alleged attack, was safe.

Just a week earlier, NBC affiliate KGW TV of Portland, Ore., reported that a remarkably upbeat and candid Storro sat in front of reporters at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and described how she was injured.

She claimed her attacker said "Hey pretty girl, do you want to drink this?" before splashing the acid that burned her face.

Storro said she held the news conference then to draw attention to efforts to find the attacker, but also to talk about her faith.

Full of faith
"I'm here today because of Jesus Christ," she said at the time, adding that the strength of her faith would allow her to move forward.

However, doubts about Storro's veracity were already spreading.

Media analyses, including a posting in The Vancouver Voice, questioned why in her photograph acid burns were absent from her face along her hairline, eyes or lips and none were reported on her neck, shoulders or hair or inside her nose or mouth.

The Vancouver Voice also had reported that homeless witnesses claimed Storro was alone when she fell to the ground screaming.

Chats on The Columbian newspaper website had also questioned the veracity of Storro's tale.