Six whites in West Virginia, US, have been charged with holding a black woman captive for more than a week at a ramshackle trailer and brutally torturing her. Police say Megan Williams, 20, was also sexually assaulted and forced to eat animal droppings.
Her captors choked her with a cable cord, stabbed her in the leg while calling her a racial epithet, poured hot water over her, made her drink from a toilet and beat her, according to the complaints.
Bobby Brewster, George Messer, Alisha Burton and Karen Burton are scheduled to appear Monday in Logan County Magistrate Court. Frankie Brewster and Danny Combs are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.
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 remain in custody in lieu of $100,000 bail each.
Since 1991, police have filed 108 criminal charges against the six.
News organizations don't usually release the names of victims of sexual abuse, but in this case, Megan's mother says she wants people to know the horror that was done to her daughter, reports CBS News.
"I want other parents and other mothers to realize, I guess, that people are out there like that, keep a close eye on their children. You never think it would happen to your child. Obviously, I never thought that, but here we are," Carmen Williams said.
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.
Megan Williams is expected to remain in the hospital for a few more days. Her mother said her daughter has not talked about her ordeal in detail yet.
"Mentally, she still wakes up at night crying and making sure I'm near her," Carmen Williams said. "She still hollers, 'Ma, what they did to me was bad.' So the only thing I can do, me and her dad, is just be there for her, to comfort her. We can do nothing more."
Neighbors of Megan and Carmen Williams in Charleston recalled the mother as friendly and her daughter as sweet-natured but said they kept largely to themselves.
"They were isolated, in a way," said the Rev. Norman Jones of the Greater Emmanuel Gospel Tabernacle, which Carmen Williams attended. "Carmen was very protective of Megan, so it was hard to know her well."
Meanwhile representatives of several black churches appealed to the prosecutors to pursue hate-crime or civil-rights charges against the six accused.
"The family is aghast and totally devastated by the findings of the Logan prosecutor that this barbaric, heinous, despicable (crime) is not one of racial hatred," said the Rev. Emanuel Heyliger of the Ferguson Memorial Baptist Church in Dunbar.
Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham urged patience.
"We're still working the case even today," he said. "I'll make that determination when the investigation is concluded, but I want to focus on the most serious crimes that carry the stiffest penalties."
Authorities also said the fact that Megan Williams knew one of her alleged attackers played a role in their decision not to pursue hate-crime or civil-rights charges at this time.
Heyliger, speaking outside the Charleston hospital where Williams is being treated, rejected that explanation.
"Whether she was known by or known to any one of these perpetrators, that is no reason why this case should not be treated as it should, and that is as a hate crime," said Heyliger, who was joined by representatives of another Dunbar church and an association of black churches in Charleston.
West Virginia's hate-crime statute carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
"How can you not charge them with a hate crime and pursue it when it appears to be racially motivated?" asked Bishop Richard Cox, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
"Every black preacher in that city and every concerned, fair-minded white person in that city ought to get together," Cox said in telephone interview from Ohio, where he is based. "We need to march and protest."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a civil rights organization for ethnic minorities in the united States, said it was monitoring the case. "We expect the authorities to do the right thing in bringing the responsible parties involved in these despicable and heinous events to justice with the full weight of the law," Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, said in a statement.
U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller said by telephone he was not surprised by the criticism.
"Most people, when they see the allegations in this particular case, think, 'Well that's obviously a hate crime. Where are the feds?'" Miller said. "It's very difficult to explain to the general public the nuances of statutes like the civil rights statutes."
The federal code commonly used in hate crimes prosecutions prohibits the use of force or the threat of force in abridging the civil rights of an individual. Those specified rights include voting, enrollment in school, travel between states and the use of establishments serving the public like restaurants.
"There is no federal statute that makes it a crime to hate someone," Miller said. "Nor is there a federal statute that criminalizes conduct that doesn't relate to one of those federally protected activities."
Miller said state charges carry the stiffest penalties possible — life in prison — and state court provides the "best chance of successful prosecution."