Alleged Torture Suspects May Face Hate Crime Charges

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[National News]

Six West Virginians charged with kidnapping, torturing and sexually assaulting a woman for at least a week may also face hate crime charges, Logan County Sheriff's officials said Tuesday.

Danny Combs and Alisha Burton were charged in the West Virginia case.

The victim, 20-year-old Megan Williams, is black; those charged are white. CNN's usual policy is to not report names of sexual assault victims. In this case, the victim agreed to be identified.

The suspects include a mother and son, a mother and daughter, and two men.

According to criminal complaints filed in the county, Williams was sexually assaulted, stabbed in the left leg, choked and beaten. The victim said one of the suspects cut her ankle with a knife while saying, "That's what we do to [racial slur] around here," police records show.

She also allegedly was forced to eat rat and dog feces, lick up blood and drink from the toilet. The criminal complaints say the suspects threatened to kill the victim if she left the house where she was being held.

Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham said he planned to meet with local police, FBI and a federal attorney at 4 p.m. ET to determine whether hate crime charges should be filed.

The six are charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and battery. Kidnapping is punishable by up to life in prison. The penalty for first-degree sexual assault is 15 to 35 years.

Abraham said the charges could be modified as the investigation continues. Williams was discovered Saturday after sheriff's deputies received an anonymous tip that a woman was being held against her will at a home in Big Creek, West Virginia.

As the deputies spoke with a woman on the front porch, "a female inside the residence limped toward the door with her arms held out, saying 'Help me,'" according to a news release from the Sheriff's Department.
The woman had stab wounds on her left leg and bruises around her eyes, the statement said. Her wounds were determined to be about a week old.

"Deputies found her with two black eyes, part of her hair had been pulled out, she had lacerations on her neck and she had been physically, mentally and sexually abused," said Sheriff W.E. Hunter.

In custody are Frankie Brewster, 49; her son Bobby, 24, both of Pecks Mill, West Virginia; Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, West Virginia; and George A. Messer, 27, Karen Burton, 46, and her daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, all of Chapmanville, West Virginia.
"They all have previous records and have been arrested numerous times," Hunter said. "They are familiar to law enforcement."

(CNN: La Neice Collins and Joann Rizzo contributed to this report).


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