Bethany Storro pleads guilty

Plea bargain puts woman in treatment, not prison

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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Storro court appearance

Bethany Storro pleads guilty in Clark County Superior Court on Friday.

Bethany Storro pleads guilty in Clark County Superior Court on Friday.

Coming Sunday in The Columbian

• From “victim” to suspect: How the investigation unfolded.

• Web page devoted to coverage of the Bethany Storro story.

Reassuring the public that she’s getting the mental health treatment she “so desperately” needs, Vancouver resident Bethany Storro pleaded guilty Friday to a gross misdemeanor for lying to police about having acid thrown in her face by a black woman.

Storro, 28, made national news last year as a victim who said she was attacked by a stranger Aug. 30 near Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver.

Approximately two weeks later, she admitted that she’d applied a caustic drain cleaner on her face in an attempt to kill herself, but then panicked and decided to say she was attacked.

During a 10-minute hearing Friday in Clark County Superior Court, Storro stood between her attorney, Andrew Wheeler, and Clark County Prosecutor Tony Golik.

Originally charged with three counts of second-degree theft for taking money that had been donated to help her and her family, Storro was entered into a felony diversion program for one count of second-degree theft.

The other two counts were dismissed, Golik said, and if Storro completes the terms of diversion the felony theft charge will be dismissed.

Storro has repaid the money she was given, including what she’d spent.

To finish the 18-month felony diversion program, she will have to reimburse the Vancouver Police Department $3,982.64 for overtime costs incurred by detectives. She will also have to comply with the terms of her mental health treatment plan and report regularly to a felony diversion counselor, Golik said.

Golik recommended a suspended sentence of 365 days in jail for the gross misdemeanor of making a false statement to a public servant.

He also recommended that Storro serve 240 hours of community service and pay a standard crime victim assessment fee of $500.

That money goes to a fund that helps crime victims with medical costs and other expenses.

Judge John Nichols agreed with Golik’s recommendation.

The judge complimented Golik and Wheeler for reaching a fair resolution to what he called a sad situation.

“The community is getting paid back. … I do think it puts Ms. Storro in the position of helping herself,” Nichols said.

“I wish you the best of luck,” Nichols told Storro.

“Thank you so much,” she said.

“You’ve got a lot hanging over your head,” Nichols said.

Wheeler said after the court hearing that, of the approximately $28,000 donated by the public following the news of the attack, Storro had access only to a $3,000 check from a Safeway employees fund.

Wheeler said Safeway employees donate a portion of their paychecks to the fund so the money can be distributed to an employee in need.

According to court documents, she spent approximately $1,500.

Wheeler said the unspent money has been returned to donors and the Safeway employees fund was repaid. He said Storro’s parents helped her cover the cost.

Storro, who moved to Vancouver in 2009 from Idaho, had worked as a deli clerk at the Safeway in Washougal.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.