The news last week that a Vancouver woman staged the Aug. 30 acid attack that caused second-degree burns to her own face shocked many.
Not Marcus Griffith, a 29-year-old freelance journalist for The Vancouver Voice. On Sept. 8, one week before Vancouver police held a news conference to announce that 28-year-old Bethany Storro had concocted the story of a random black woman throwing acid in her face outside a Starbucks, Griffith posted a detailed report on the Voice's website, vanvoice.com. The alternative newspaper's report raised serious questions about Storro's account and earned Griffith plenty of hate mail.
WW caught up with Griffith last week to talk about the incident's effect on Vancouver and the initial, at times brutal, response to Griffith's puncturing of Storro's story.
WW: What was your first clue something was amiss?
Marcus Griffith: Looking at the picture that she released [days after the incident]. That was the first time I started to have serious doubts.
What about that picture that showed her second-degree burns made you suspicious?
There was no splash pattern. [The acid burn] wasn't on her hairline. It wasn't around her mouth and lips. It did not seem consistent with a splash. And if the acid wasn't applied to her face in a splash, her entire story was bogus.
But you got your first real lead by accident, no?
When I first started [reporting], it was on the presumption that she was telling the truth. So I was looking for the foot pattern of the assailant to and from Bethany. I went to businesses. I went to the homeless population and started asking questions. That's when I started getting some pretty convincing, seemingly reliable testimony from numerous members of the homeless community that they were in the area that night and didn't see anyone.
Before the public learned the attack was a hoax, some of Storro's supporters started calling The Vancouver Voice "Satan's paper." What's up with that?
The nickname "Satan's paper" is very new. It apparently spawned from members of Bethany's church or close religious circle who disliked the questions I posed. And apparently when they went to call and complain to the editor, they realized there was "666" in the [paper's] phone number.
Is that all?
One of them also realized my mailing address has the ZIP code 98666. Apparently, having 666 associated with your paper and questioning the story of a Christian makes you Satan's paper. If we were Satan's paper, I would have much better pay benefits.
Why didn't you go to the police press conference announcing the attack had been a hoax? That could have been your big moment.
That's exactly why I did not go. I did not want the controversy surrounding my questions to distract from what was about to be released to the public.
Do you think Clark County prosecutors should bring charges?
I do not see an outcome that does not include charges.
This is a heinous act. This has affected the community in a very deep way. There were women who were stopped and harassed by overzealous people in the community. The police, through their normal routine, had to stop and question people. This had a huge impact, and it contributed to copycat crimes.
Are you referring to the woman in Mesa, Ariz., who got acid thrown in her face two weeks ago?
It's been openly discussed as a possible copycat.… If it was a copycat case, the question is how much legal, civil or moral liability does Bethany have? Those are tough questions.
What haunts you more: a random acid attack or a fabricated acid attack?
Neither one paints a positive picture about the human condition.
Prosecutors announced Sept. 20 that Storro would face three felony theft charges connected to funds established on her behalf last week.