CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A black Ohio woman who recanted allegations of being tortured by a group of white people in West Virginia has mental issues and has more than once changed her version of what happened, her current caretaker said Thursday.
Valencia Daniels told The Associated Press that Megan Williams "goes back and forth, back and forth" about the 2007 allegations of being beaten, raped and tortured. Seven people pleaded guilty to charges in the case, and six of them are serving lengthy prison sentences.
Byron L. Potts, an attorney for Williams — whose mother described as "slow" — said Wednesday that she fabricated the story to get revenge on an ex-boyfriend and all her wounds except facial bruises were self-inflicted.
Daniels, who now cares for the 22-year-old in Columbus, said she tried to talk Williams out of recanting, but Williams insisted. Williams was described by Daniels had approached media outlets with Williams in recent months, saying the truth needed to come out.
Brian Abraham, the Logan County prosecutor at the time of the 2007 incident, dismissed Williams' new story as "absurd," and said the convictions were based on the defendants' own statements and physical evidence rather than what Williams said.
"We realized within a day or two that some of what she was saying was embellished and didn't match what we were finding with the evidence," he said Wednesday.
Williams had said her captors, including boyfriend Bobby Brewster, beat her, raped her, forced her to drink urine and eat feces, poured hot wax on her and taunted her with racial slurs in a trailer in Logan County, about 50 miles from Charleston. Williams was rescued after a passer-by heard cries from the shed where she was kept and an anonymous caller tipped off sheriff's deputies.
Wednesday's announcement has thrown a racially charged case into question. When the allegations first came out in 2007, it drew in polarizing national figures like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Malik Shabazz, the national chairman of the New Black Panther Party.
Shabazz said Thursday he believes the torture attack did happen and Williams was being manipulated into recanting.
"I think it's a joke and I stand with the prosecutor and evidence that was presented in this case," he said.
Lawyers for the six convicts still imprisoned in the case have either not responded to requests for comment or have declined to talk. The Associated Press has asked, via prison officials, to speak with the six. So far, Bobby Brewster has declined comment and the others have not responded.
There is no practical legal effect of Wednesday's announcement, according to Philip Morrison, executive director of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Institute.
"She hasn't recanted," Morrison said. "A lawyer can't speak for an individual. The individual has to speak for herself. That's step one."
If Williams does give a formal statement, perhaps to investigators, then it's up to the six convicts to file writs of habeas corpus to have their cases reopened, citing newly discovered evidence, Morrison said.