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Disbelieved, activist sticks by attack story

Published Oct. 9, 2005

The woman who alleges she was beaten, burned and slashed on the banks of the Fenholloway River in Taylor County last year is not giving up efforts to prove her story.

Stephanie McGuire, 38, a Taylor County native and former fish camp operator, said she believes three masked men attacked her because of her involvement in an environmental group that is fighting to stop a cellulose plant's pollution of the Fenholloway River.

Last week, three law enforcement agencies ended more than a year's worth of investigations into the violence that occurred beside McGuire's remote home on April 7, 1992.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the state attorney's office and the Taylor County Sheriff's Department came to this conclusion: McGuire's version could not be true. Investigators said they never found evidence to confirm much of her story. Plus, McGuire was uncooperative with investigators, and some of her testimony was contradictory or disputed by experts' lab analysis, they concluded.

On Monday, McGuire said she is sticking by her version of the attack.

"I'm not surprised with the closing of my attack by the FDLE," McGuire said. "Concerning their statement that they're willing to reopen if there is any new evidence, I don't know why I should believe it, because the original evidence was never properly handled."

McGuire said she thinks the Taylor County Sheriff's Department botched the investigation from the start.

When asked what motive the sheriff's department might have to cover up the truth, McGuire indicated that people with more power and influence than she has might be influencing the sheriff.

In the past, McGuire has said she feared Procter & Gamble, which still owns part of the cellulose plant, has interfered with the sheriff's investigation into the incident. Her story has been chronicled by 60 Minutes, CNN and newspapers across the country.

"I'm not concerned with their closing of my case because my lawyer, my friends and I have not closed it," said McGuire, who says she has since moved out of state to escape harassment and abuse to her, her roommate and their dogs. "It is not the end."

FDLE spokesman John Joyce said his agency found no evidence that the Taylor County Sheriff's Department mishandled the investigation.

"We agree that this is a very unfortunate situation for everyone involved," Joyce said Monday. "It's also unfortunate that Miss McGuire was not as cooperative with us as she was with others. We are certainly in a position to re-examine any information that might come to us. We did the best job we could with the information that was provided to us."