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Mystery Deepens in Miss Puerto Rico Pepper-Spray Incident

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Feb 12, 2005
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The mystery surrounding the alleged pepper spraying of Puerto Rico's 2008 Miss Universe contestant's belongings is nothing to sneeze at.

Police are now said to be investigating just how Ingrid Marie Rivera was able to stop crying between camera appearances at Saturday's pageant, if indeed her gown and makeup had been sabotaged with the spray, as she asserts, NBC News reports.

The reported skepticism about Rivera prompted Today show host Meredith Vieira to inquire on Tuesday's broadcast if, possibly, crime-scene investigators believe the pepper-spray claim may have been imaginary.

"They're saying, they think she made it up?" Vieira asked reporter Kerry Sanders, who replied: "They're looking into it. They're curious."

Rivera is due to be interviewed on Wednesday's Today show, where, on Tuesday, co-anchor Matt Lauer said he intended to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Composed – at Times

Beating 29 rivals, Rivera took home the crown and the chance to vie in the Miss Universe pageant. Throughout the competition, Rivera was composed while appearing before the cameras and panel of judges.

But once off-camera, she was forced to shed her clothes and apply ice bags to her face and body, which twice swelled and broke out in hives, the Associated Press reports.

"We thought at first it was an allergic reaction, or maybe nerves," said pageant spokesman Harold Rosario. "But the second time, we knew it couldn't have been a coincidence." Later, Rivera's garments and cosmetics tested positive for pepper spray.

Rivera's bag containing her gowns, makeup and credit cards reportedly had also been stolen before the pageant.

Saying that she had wavered about remaining in the competition, Rivera, 24, told reporters at a Sunday news conference, "It was a lot of sacrifice, and my tears were genuine," reports Reuters.

'Am I a Masochist?'

"At one point, I asked, 'Am I a masochist?' But I said regardless of the results, this is my goal. The more rocks there are in my path, the more thanks I will give to God for sustaining me."

Miss Puerto Rico Universe pageant director Magali Febles also told the AP that pageant officials were forced to postpone Thursday's final day of competition because of a bomb threat.

Authorities said they searched the premises with dogs but did not discover any explosives.