In from BIG CREEK, W.Va….Authorities decided Wednesday not to pursue hate crime charges in the kidnapping and weeklong torture of a black woman, instead going after the suspects, who are white, on state charges that carry stiffer penalties.
While federal civil rights or state hate crime charges remain an option, a state kidnapping count that carries a sentence of up to life in prison will provide the best chance for successful prosecution, officials said.
“As a practical matter, sentenced to life, what else can be done?” U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller told The Associated Press.
Six people face charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault and lying to police in the torture of Megan Williams, 20, at a remote hillside home in Big Creek.
State hate crime charges, which carry a sentence of 10 years, could come later, prosecutor Brian Abraham said. State sexual assault charges carry a penalty up to 35 years in prison.
The woman’s captors forced her to eat rat droppings, choked her with a cable cord and stabbed her in the leg while calling her a racial slur, according to criminal complaints. They also poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet, and beat and sexually assaulted her during a span of about a week, the documents say.
Williams was not a random target, prosecutor Brian Abraham said Wednesday. She had a “social relationship” with one of the suspects, he said.
The Associated Press generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault, but Williams and her mother, Carmen Williams, agreed to release her name. Carmen Williams said she wanted people to know what her daughter had endured.
“I don’t understand a human being doing another human being the way they did my daughter,” Carmen Williams said Tuesday from her daughter’s hospital room. “I didn’t know there were people like that out here.”
At one point, a suspect cut the woman’s ankle with a knife and used the N-word in telling her she was victimized because she is black, according to the complaints.
It wasn’t until an anonymous tip led Logan County sheriff’s deputies to the property on Saturday that her ordeal ended, authorities said. She limped toward the deputies, her arms outstretched as she cried, “Help me,” officials said.
Williams remained hospitalized Wednesday in Charleston. The hospital declined to release any information about her condition.
However, he mother said her right arm is now in a cast, but she may be well enough to leave the hospital within a few days.
“I just want my daughter to be well and recover,” Carmen Williams said. “I know the Lord can do anything.”
The victim had a previous relationship with Bobby Brewster, one of the six in custody, Abraham said. He was charged in July with domestic battery and assault after a domestic dispute involving the same woman.
“She obviously had some sort of social relationship,” Abraham said. “That is based on the fact that she was present at his residence on a prior date.”
The suspects have arrest records going back several years, according to records from Logan County Magistrate Court, and Abraham said he had “some familiarity with all those individuals.”
Since 1991, police have filed 108 criminal charges against the six.
Brewster’s mother, Frankie Brewster, 49, faced the most serious charges among them. She was charged in 1994 with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter and wanton endangerment. She was released from prison in 2000 after serving five years in the death of an 84-year-old woman, court records show.
In Williams’ case, Frankie Brewster is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and giving false information during a felony investigation.
Bobby Brewster, 24, also of Big Creek, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and assault during the commission of a felony.
In March, Brewster was accused in criminal complaints of attacking his mother with a machete at her home, according to court records. The outcome of those charges – domestic assault, brandishing a deadly weapon and obstructing an officer – was not immediately clear.
Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, is charged with sexual assault and malicious wounding. Karen Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, was charged with malicious wounding, battery and assault during the commission of a felony.
Burton’s daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, and George A. Messer, 27, both of Chapmanville, are charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery. She previously faced charges of assault during the commission of a felony and battery; in May, she was accused of striking Messer with a shovel and smashing the window of a woman’s car. The charges are pending.
All six remained in custody Wednesday in lieu of $100,000 cash bail each. Bobby Brewster is scheduled to appear before a Logan County Circuit Court judge on Monday to be arraigned on the kidnapping charge, according to court records. A date for his mother’s appearance on the kidnapping charge has not yet been set.
Public defender Dwyane Adkins, appointed to represent Bobby Brewster, and public defender Betty Gregory, appointed to represent Karen Burton, declined to comment. The other defendants’ court-appointed lawyers were either in hearings or did not immediately return telephone calls Wednesday.
Thank you AP News
Well Baby Boomers…this whole group belongs under the jail cemment.
I am sure that this young woman is not the first adbuctee. I just hope she is the last!
I wish this young woman a speedy recovery and hope that she learns to be more careful who her aquaintances are. I hope this is a wake up call for her.
~The Baby Boomer Queen~