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Officials Consider Hate Crime Charges in Week-Long Kidnap, Torture of West Virginia Woman

Authorities said Tuesday they are considering hate crime charges in the case of a woman who was tortured while being held captive for at least a week, and they are investigating the possibility that she was lured by a man she met on the Internet.

The victim was repeatedly called a racial slur while her captors sexually abused, beat and stabbed her, her mother said.

Six people, all white, including a mother and son and a mother and daughter, were arrested in connection with the alleged abduction of the 20-year-old black woman, who was held captive at a home in Big Creek in Logan County, about 50 miles southwest of Charleston.

"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 room at Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital. "I didn't know there were people like that out here."

Megan Williams, with a cast on her arm, spoke barely above a whisper.

"I'm better," she said.

The Associated Press generally does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault, but Williams and her mother agreed to release her name.

A prosecutor said police are investigating the possibility that the victim was lured to the house where she was attacked by a man she met on the Internet, but Carmen Williams insisted that wasn't the case. "This wasn't from the Internet," she said.

Deputies also interviewed the victim Tuesday morning. State, local and federal officials planned to meet later in the day to decide whether to file hate crime charges, Logan County sheriff's Sgt. Sonya Porter said. An FBI spokesman in Pittsburgh, Bill Crowley, confirmed that the agency is looking into possible civil rights violations.

The woman's abductors called her the N-word "every time they stabbed her," Carmen Williams told The Charleston Gazette earlier.

Authorities were still looking for two people they believe drove the woman to the house where she was abused, said Logan County Chief Deputy V.K. Dingess.

Neighbors said the were shocked to hear about the crime.

"This is awful," said Cabin Whitt, who has raised five children in Big Creek and was trimming his lawn on Tuesday. "You don't expect to hear anything like that."

The case is "something that would have come out of a horror movie," Logan County Sheriff W.E. Hunter said.

Deputies found Williams on Saturday when they went to Frankie Brewster's house to investigate an anonymous tip from someone who had witnessed the abuse, Porter said Tuesday.

Brewster was sitting on the front porch and told deputies she was alone, but moments later Williams limped toward the door, her arms outstretched, saying "Help me," the sheriff's department said in a news release.

Carmen Williams said doctors told her daughter she may be well enough to leave the hospital within a few days, although a nurse said the young woman's condition was listed as "under evaluation."

"I just want my daughter to be well and recover," Carmen Williams said. "I know the Lord can do anything."

Besides being sexually assaulted, Williams had been stabbed four times in the left leg and beaten, Porter said.

During her capture, Williams was forced to eat rat and dog feces and drink from the toilet, according to the criminal complaint filed in Logan County Magistrate Court. She was also choked and doused with hot water.

One of those arrested, Karen Burton, is accused of cutting Williams' ankle with a knife and using the N-word in telling Williams she was victimized because she is black, according to the criminal complaint.

Brewster, 49, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and giving false information during a felony investigation.

She was released from prison in September 2000 after serving five years for voluntary manslaughter and wanton endangerment in the death of 84-year-old Polly Ferrell, according to court records.

Her son, Bobby R. Brewster, 24, also of Big Creek, is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault, malicious wounding and assault during the commission of a felony.

Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, is charged with malicious wounding, battery and assault during the commission of a felony.

Her daughter, Alisha Burton, 23, of Chapmanville, and George A. Messer, 27, of Chapmanville, are charged with assault during the commission of a felony and battery.

Danny J. Combs, 20, of Harts, is charged with sexual assault and malicious wounding.

All six remained in custody Tuesday in lieu of $100,000 bail each, and all have asked for court-appointed attorneys.

The state and local chapters of the NAACP plan to meet Saturday to discuss the case, said the Rev. Audie Murphy Sr., president of the Logan County branch. Until then, both he and state president Kenneth Hale declined to comment Tuesday.

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