RIPLEY, W.Va. – Shown numerous photos of her wounds in court, a West Virginia woman whose husband is accused of torturing and abusing her for years denied the allegations Friday, offering different explanations for each injury.
Stephanie Lizon's testimony conflicted with what she previously told a domestic violence worker, but a magistrate refused a defense motion to dismiss a malicious wounding charge against her husband, Peter Lizon. The judge found probable cause to send the case to circuit court.
When Stephanie Lizon looked at photos of wounds on her back and breast taken by a domestic violence shelter manager, she testified they came from the same frying pan.
"It was an accident," Stephanie Lizon said. "My husband and I were arguing over breakfast. We often get very passionate in our arguments. I often am without a shirt in my own home because I think it's my right. We collided with each other."
Similar answers came with other injuries — her husband either wasn't involved or didn't intentionally inflict them.
A bruise on her side? "That was when my goat gored me," she said.
A knee bruise? "I skinned my knee. I tripped."
A photo of her swollen left foot?
"It was caused by an accident that we had with the tractor and the front-end loader attachment," Stephanie Lizon said. "My husband was trying to lower the attachment and he didn't realize that I was so close. He dropped the loader on my feet."
A domestic violence shelter manager said Stephanie Lizon told her the back burns occurred because the wife didn't prepare a meal correctly and got hit intentionally with a hot pan. The manager also said after Peter Lizon allegedly dropped the hay bailer on her feet, and over time, he stepped on her feet to reinjure them.
Prosecutor Katie Casto said the bruises were obvious.
"It is plain to a reasonable person that this was intentional," Casto said. "It's not an accident."
Peter Lizon, who is being held in jail on bond, sat next to his attorneys at the preliminary hearing in Jackson County Magistrate Court.
"What we have established is that this is a mess," said his attorney, Shawn Bayliss.
Stephanie Lizon testified she fled June 18 after an argument with her husband at a heavy equipment rental store about 50 miles north of their home in Leroy near the Ohio border. She said she did not want to argue in front of the couple's 13-month-old child and went to the domestic violence shelter for two days.
She told another woman at the shelter of the abuse, a criminal complaint said.
An employee of the Bosley Rental & Supply store previously told The Associated Press Stephanie Lizon entered told the staff she was trying to hide from her husband when she entered a different part of the store.
The employee declined to give her name, citing concern for her safety and that of her co-workers at the rental shop.
Stephanie Lizon said then she didn't want to involve police but accepted the number for the shelter and called it, the store employee said. She also called family to ask for money, and the employees gave her cash and called her a cab.
She was limping and had appeared to have some sort of injury, the store employee said.
The shelter manager testified Stephanie Lizon showed up at the shelter under an assumed name and was afraid of her husband. A bus ticket was arranged for the wife to travel to her parents' home in Alexandria, Va., but she never got on the bus because her young son was with her husband and she wanted to go get him.
Investigators said they had 45 photographs showing burns on the wife's back and breasts from irons and frying pans, and scars on her wrists and ankles. When she was shown a picture of her foot injury, she said farming was dangerous.
She sought medical treatment on June 20, but when asked why she didn't previously, "I didn't think it warranted it," she testified.
The couple has raised goats and chickens on their property since 2005.
West Virginia University law professor Marjorie McDiarmid, who specializes in domestic violence and family law, said successful prosecution of such cases depends on evidence that supports the allegations.
Despite her denial of abuse, it's common for prosecutors to have to build a case based on third-party evidence, McDiarmid said.
"It is a very frajjrapught period in anyone's life when they are making these kind of allegations," she said. "If in fact she is the victim of violence, there's a lot of danger and a lot of fear and a lot of mixed emotions that go into being in that kind of situation."