|Bi-racial Groups Support W. Va. Torture Victim
By: Cash Michaels
Special to the NNPA from the Wilmington Journal
Originally posted 10/11/2007
(NNPA) - A group of about 40 citizens – White and Black – came together Oct. 2 at a local church in Logan County, W. Va. to hold a candlelight vigil for Megan Williams, the alleged victim of a month-long racially-motivated captivity, rape and torture.
''We are joining together to show support for Megan and for our legal system and to encourage prosecuting attorney to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law and give justice to Megan,'' Eliza Dillard, a Logan County resident, said.
The group united, not only to show their abhorrence to the crimes allegedly committed by six White Career criminals, but to also let the world know that the residents of Logan County do not condone the racial tragedy that has cast a shadow over their community.
There were those, however, who said despite the show of support, there can be no denying that racism has been alive and well in Logan County long before the Megan Williams case.
“[We] deplore the violence and degradation inflicted on Megan Williams, the young African-American woman allegedly held captive for at least a week and tortured by a half-dozen white people at a Logan County mobile home,” said James Hagood, a spokesman for the Logan County Improvement League and the American Friends Service Committee’s Empowerment for Women Plus.
Those were the groups that sponsored the vigil, held at the Church of God in the Name of Christ Jesus in Big Creek.
The church is located just two miles from the broken down mobile home trailer where Logan Sheriff’s deputies found Williams Sept. 8 on a tip that the Black woman was being held captive.
The six suspects, Frankie Lee Brewster, 49; her son, Bobby Ray, 24, who authorities believe had some sort of relationship with the alleged victim; Danny Combs, 20; George Messer, 27; Karen Burton, 46, and her daughter Alisha, 22 – all of whom have collectively racked up 108 criminal charges since 1991, the most serious being first-degree murder – are charged with kidnapping and at least one count each of first-degree sexual assault, among other charges.
Burton was the last of the six to have a preliminary hearing last week.
If convicted, all six, three of whom are women, could be sentenced to life in prison.
According to Logan County authorities, all six not only held the mentally challenged young Black woman captive for over a month, but they allegedly beat her, choked her, cut her hair off in patches, stabbed her, made her lick up her own blood, tied a cable around her neck, broke her arm in two places, poured hot scalding water on her, forced her to have oral sex in addition to eating rat and dog feces, and drink out of a toilet bowel; raped her at knife point, and threatened to kill her if she attempted to escape.
Logan County prosecutor Brian Abraham is now expected to seek indictments when the grand jury is convened.
“We are shocked at such a vicious and monstrous crime occurred in our community, and we are sickened that a young woman had to endure the kind of horrifying experience that has been reported,” spokesman James Hagood said at the vigil Tuesday night.
“While we certainly do not believe all white people in Logan condone these reported inhumane actions, the fact that this happened here is not totally surprising to us because we’ve been addressing racial issues in the county and state for many years.”
Even representatives from the Logan County NAACP chapter acknowledged that while the predominately white area has its problems, the torture case is certainly not indicative of its citizenry.
“Logan County is not a racist county,” said NAACP member Eunice Hairston. “Those people were sick.”
Evidence that people are coming together around the Megan Williams can’t be denied.
Just last week at the West Virginia College of Law, a newly formed group called The Coalition to End Race and Gender Violence circulated a petition stating, “Our state should not be silent about race and gender based violent crime.”
At press time, over 750 people had signed the petition.
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin has said the state “…has always been at the front of helping and I think we’ll be a leader at this too if we aren’t ready.”
There has been a huge outcry in the African-American community across the nation because the major media has ceased covering the story after the initial reports a month ago, giving the O.J. Simpson and Jena 6 cases more coverage.
While the Black Press certainly has kept the Megan Williams case in focus, many have taken to the Internet, circulating emails urging the major media not to ignore recent developments.
They fear that if national scrutiny is taken off the Williams case, the six suspects, despite a mount of evidence and injuries to the victim, could escape the full measure of prosecution.
There are also concerns about what hate crime charges have not been applied to this case yet.
There is little doubt that part of the reason why Ms. Williams was allegedly brutalized in the fashion that she was is because she is Black.
“They said it was because I was colored,” Williams is quoted in a Sept. 8 written statement to authorities. “They said they don’t like Black people and they said they were going to hang me.”
Williams also told investigators during that session that one of the White female suspects, Karen Burton, allegedly choked her and cut off her hair in patches, saying, “This is what we do to niggers around here.”
Williams alleges that each time she was abused, her assailants were either drunk or high on drugs, if not both.
Many activists, including the NAACP, have expressed concern that by not charging the alleged assailants for racially biased actions, it sends the wrong message that law enforcement could care less.
Logan County authorities counter that hate crime charges haven’t been taken off the table. They first want to make sure that that their case is solid on the most pressing first-degree felonies – kidnapping and sexual assault – so that it enhances the probability of all of them getting convicted, and serving the rest of their lives behind bars.
Once that’s done, authorities say, then they can move forward with hate crime charges – which in the state of West Virginia carry a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
Still, supporters of Megan Williams are watching with a weary eye.
“We applaud law enforcement officials and the prosecuting attorney for pursuing this matter seriously. We are thankful that they have moved quickly in arresting and charging Ms. Williams’ alleged attackers,” James Hagood, vigil sponsor spokesman said. “We also would like to acknowledge the anonymous individual who demonstrated quiet courage by alerting law enforcement about Ms. Williams’ plight.”
”Although we recognize that there may be good reasons for not bringing hate crime charges — and we certainly support bringing the strongest possible charges against the individuals involved in these horrific crimes — we want to go on record saying we believe this brutality was racist in nature and should be publicly acknowledged as such.”
There is also concern in the mostly rural Logan County community about big city Black activists coming to get involved.
A local television station has reported the members of the militant Black nationalist group, the New Black Panther Party, have indicated that they will be in Logan County to protest the fact that hate crime charges haven’t been leveled, and to work with Black residents there in dealing with racism.
The NBPP, along with Black Lawyers for Justice, have announced an Oct. 27 national march and rally in Charleston to protest that hate charges, so far, have not been lodged.
“We understand that groups from outside Logan County have expressed the intention of coming into our community to show their displeasure,” James Hagood said. “We want to send a message to these people that we are actively engaged in planning peaceful actions to demonstrate our intention to see that Ms. Williams receives justice in Logan County. We do not condone or support violence of any sort from any extremist group.”
Hagood continued, “As one of our members said, 'We want Megan Williams to know we’re watching out for her here.'''