July 11, 2012 @ 02:24 PM
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Authorities say a West Virginia man tortured and enslaved his wife for much of the past decade, forcing her to endure two pregnancies and deliveries in shackles.
A criminal complaint against Peter Lizon, 37, says one of those babies was stillborn and buried on the family farm in Leroy. The other survived but apparently has never had any medical care.
Lizon was in jail Wednesday on $300,000 bond. He was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on a malicious wounding charge Friday morning in Jackson County Magistrate Court.
Chief Deputy Tony Boggs said 43-year-old Stephanie Lizon endured more suffering than virtually any domestic violence victim he's seen.
"This appears to go beyond abuse to what I would consider torture," he said. "Her injuries are much more than just getting pushed up against the wall. She's been abused almost to the point of slavery and torture."
The complaint says Mrs. Lizon was burned on her back and breasts with irons and frying pans, and had her foot smashed with a piece of farm equipment, among other things.
Peter Lizon's attorney, Shawn Bayliss, was in court Wednesday and not immediately available for comment. However, he told WSAZ-TV the allegations were false, and that the miscarriage was the result of an all-terrain vehicle accident.
Bayliss also told the TV station that Stephanie Lizon had a "feeble mind" and was standing by her husband. Boggs said he wasn't certain whether she was currently cooperating with police.
The details of her abuse came out after she fled from her husband July 2 and took refuge at a Family Crisis Intervention Center in Parkersburg. Her husband had taken her to a rental store to return a rototiller. The wife fled to a Zumba dance center nearby, hiding until shelter workers could get her.
At the shelter, she told another woman about the abuse she'd suffered at the hands of her husband, a native of the Czech Republic. The wife said her family was from Alexandria, Va.
The witness described the woman as "gaunt and filthy," and covered in scars, bruises and burns. She had scar tissue on her wrists and ankles, "mutilated and swollen" feet, a scar in the shape of a clothes iron on one breast, and burns on her back that the victim said came from a hot frying pan.
The witness said the wife was called a "slave" and ordered to kneel before her husband every time she entered a room.
The wife also told the woman she delivered a fully developed, stillborn child while in shackles, and her husband buried the corpse on their farm. Another child survived a similar delivery, but Stephanie Lizon said it had never received medical attention.
Boggs couldn't say where the child was Wednesday but said state child-welfare authorities have been notified.
The sheriff's department had no history of contact with the family, Boggs said, but investigators confirmed that the wife was treated in the emergency room of St. Joseph's Hospital in June.
The complaint also says the evidence includes 45 color photographs taken to document his wife's injuries during her stay at the shelter. A Sunbeam iron was among the items seized during a July 5 search of the couple's home. Lizon was arrested that day.Boggs said Peter Lizon was arrested in Maryland in 2004, accused of cutting up Bush-Cheney campaign signs with a bayonet. The couple was apparently living in Randallstown, Md., at the time.
The Baltimore Sun reported that Lizon was sentenced to a year of probation and 32 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $328 in restitution to the Howard County Republican Party.
A message left for the Office of the State Attorney in Howard County wasn't immediately returned, so it's unclear whether he has any other criminal history there.
Boggs, meanwhile, said he hopes that the wife's escape will give courage to other people who may be trapped in abusive relationships.
"There's all kinds of people out there who are willing to help," he said.