Tom Breen, Yahoo! News, October 21, 2009
A black woman whose racially charged allegations of horrific abuse helped put several people in prison now says she lied when she alleged she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and tortured in a ramshackle West Virginia trailer.
West Virginia authorities said in 2007 that Megan Williams, now of Columbus, Ohio, had been stabbed, beaten with sticks, sexually assaulted, doused with hot water, forced to eat animal feces and taunted with racial slurs by seven white men and women. She later said that hot wax was poured on her and that two of her captors had forced to drink their urine.
An unsigned statement released Wednesday by the office of her Columbus lawyer, Byron L. Potts, said simply, “Megan Williams is now recanting her story.” Williams was scheduled to attend a news conference Wednesday in Columbus along with Potts.
Brian Abraham, the former Logan County prosecutor who pursued the cases, expressed skepticism that the story was a lie.
“If she’s going to say that she made it all up, that’s absurd,” Brian Abraham told The Associated Press Wednesday. “This looks like another attempt to generate more publicity.”
Abraham said police and prosecutors realized early in the case that they couldn’t rely on statements from Williams, who tended to embellish and exaggerate details.
Instead, he said, the seven people were convicted based on their own statements and physical evidence. All seven pleaded guilty, and all but one were sentenced to long prison terms.
Reactions from people who supported Williams were guarded Wednesday, as advocates talked cautiously about a young woman whose mother once described her as “slow.”
“We did have some concerns about what was being done at the time and how it was carried out by Megan and the family, because of her mental condition,” said the Rev. Audie Murphy, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Logan and Boone counties.
[Editor’s Note: A 2007 news story on this incident can be read here.]