SEATTLE -- Stormy Keffeler offered a tearful apology Thursday as she explained why she decided to resign as Miss Washington USA 2016. Her decision came just days after pageant officials learned that she pleaded guilty to driving under the influence last year.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Keffeler said she's been thrown into the spotlight, put under a microscope, and scrutinized for what she calls a moment of weakness that she's taken responsibility for.
"For days, I told people you can take my title off my cold dead body. I was willing to fight until the end," Keffeler said. "But after having a meeting with the pageant production company and seeing my family, I realized that the most selfish thing I could do was to continue on with this."
"I realized that I'm still myself. I still have the opportunity to change the world. But I need to do it on my own," Keffeler added.
On January 8, pageant officials learned that Keffeler pleaded guilty last fall to driving drunk at nearly 3 times the legal limit in April 2015. Seattle police is currently investigating a separate incident involving Keffeler and former Seattle Sounders player Marco Pappa, a spokesman said Thursday.
Pageant officials said Keffeler had several opportunities last year to disclose information about her DUI case, but she failed to do so until she was asked about it just days before her resignation. Background checks are not conducted on pageant contestants, officials added.
Keffeler made the decision to resign on her own, pageant officials said.
"I'm happy for Stormy that this is an opportunity for her to really change her life," said Co-Executive Producer Maureen Francisco. "This is an opportunity for her to remind herself that this moment is not going to define who she is. She has now an opportunity to make better choices moving forward."
Keffeler was crowned Miss Washington USA in October 2015. It fulfilled a life-long dream, she said.
"It's hard when a dream that you've had since you were a baby comes crashing down for one moment of weakness," Keffeler said.
Keffeler said she still thinks of herself as a role model.
"I still to this day think I'm a perfect role model and some days it's just the exact role model of what not to do," she said.
But she says she's owned up to her mistakes, learned from them, and now hopes to use her story to help others.
"Now I want to use my experience of how this has impacted my life so much to deter others and really inform the young that the choices they make today could affect their lives down the road," Keffeler said.
The next step she takes now is getting her story out there.
"For somebody who's worked so hard to watch all of my dreams come tumbling down, I think that's the best and bravest thing that I could possibly do," she said.
Pageant officials said Keffeler was the last person to have the organization's crown and sash. The organization learned the two items were missing last week, officials said.
A new crown and sash will be ordered for Kelsey Schmidt, the first runner-up who now takes over the title of Miss Washington USA 2016, officials said. Schmidt's coronation is scheduled for January 30.
"Now she's just getting ready to show the world that she's ready to take on this title," Francisco said.
Marco Pappa was traded to the Colorado Rapids.
In a statement released to KOMO News, a team spokesman said, "We are aware of the situation and have notified Major League Soccer. We have spoken with the player and will cooperate with the League on their evaluation of this matter. At this time we will have no further comment."