Storro: 'In the mirror, I saw a … monster'

In TV interview, perpetrator of Vancouver acid hoax explains how mental illness led her to harm herself

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 
photoBethany Storro, 30, of Vancouver wears a clear compression mask during a Monday appearance on "Good Morning America." She explained why she burned her face with drain cleaner and then, claimed she was attacked.

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A troubled young Vancouver woman, who attracted national attention after she purposefully damaged her face with drain cleaner, then concocted a story about being attacked, appeared Monday on ABC News' "Good Morning America" in her first broadcast interview since the 2010 incident.

Bethany Storro, 30, discussed the then-undiagnosed mental illness, body dysmorphic disorder, that drove her to disfigure herself on Aug. 30, 2010.

"In the mirror, I saw a distorted monster," she told ABC News' Abbie Boudreau. "It was, like, my eyes were gouging out, my face was just, it was just terrible."

The disorder causes obsessive thoughts about perceived, and not necessarily real, physical flaws.

Storro also is expected to appear on ABC's "20/20" program on a thus far unannounced date.

She and co-author Mona Krueger of Portland released a book about Storro's experience, "Facing the Truth," on Amazon earlier this month. The Columbian has repeatedly requested an interview with Storro since its release.

Storro has said her chronic dissatisfaction with her looks may have contributed to frequent bouts of depression. The depression contributed to her decision to divorce her husband in November 2009 in Idaho, she said in a September 2010 audio-recorded interview with investigators. She said she regretted the divorce after she realized her husband hadn't caused her unhappiness. The combination of mental health issues and their consequences made her want to end her life, she said. She was not taking any mental health medications when she tried to commit suicide, she told investigators.

She chose drain cleaner to kill herself because, she said, she had heard that the fumes from the caustic product could kill someone.

"I didn't have it in my mind to blame someone …," she told investigators. "…but when it happened, I said someone did it to me."

Storro was found later that day sitting on a curb near downtown Vancouver's Esther Short Park, her face burned by the caustic substance. (Some of the ABC News interview was filmed in the park.)

She told police that she had been attacked by a stranger, a black woman who threw a cup of acid on her face. She told ABC News that she enjoyed the attention the story attracted.

"In that moment, I felt I was cared for, and I mattered," she told Boudreau.

She apologized repeatedly during the television interview for lying about what happened.

"I made a mistake, and I hope people will forgive me and give me a chance because I'm a good person," she said.

Detectives were suspicious about her story from the beginning because her burns didn't have a splash pattern; they were shaped like a facial mask that someone had been intentionally applied, according to court records. But it took days of investigation before she admitted to making up the story.

In the meantime, she accepted thousands of dollars in donations from people who wanted to help her.

She initially faced three counts of second-degree theft for spending part of the donations, but those charges were reduced in exchange for her cooperation.

She pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, through a deferred sentencing agreement, and received a suspended jail sentence for lying to police about being a victim of an attack. That charge was dismissed from her record in March 2012 after she completed the terms of the agreement. One of those terms was to seek inpatient mental health treatment.

She told ABC News that she has become more comfortable and accepting of herself since the incident.

"I'm still the same person but better," she said. "I'm getting better every day."


Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends;paris.achen@columbian.com.