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Judge dismisses charges in W.Va. torture case

August 19, 2013

RIPLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Charges were dismissed against a West Virginia man accused of torturing his wife, in part because the woman denied the allegations and refused to cooperate with prosecutors.

About a year ago, Stephanie Lizon fled from her husband and told domestic violence shelter workers she had been captive for the better part of a decade — beaten, burned and even shackled. Her husband, Peter Lizon, was arrested and charged with malicious wounding and domestic battery.

Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Evans tossed out those charges. Lizon’s attorneys contended authorities waited too long to prosecute him and said the original prosecutor who brought the charges had a conflict of interest.

“It feels good to have this hurdle behind us,” Peter Lizon said. “But we have a long way to be done with this.”

Mason County Prosecuting Attorney Craig Tatterson, who is serving as a special prosecutor, left open the possibility for future charges, saying the case was still under investigation.

Tatterson also requested the charges be dropped, saying there wasn’t enough evidence. In court documents, Tatterson said Stephanie Lizon denied the allegations against her husband and refused to cooperate. He also said the couple was the victim of an overzealous prosecution and unfounded stories by people who don’t know them.

The original prosecutor, Kennad Skeen, removed himself from the case last month due to a conflict of interest because he previously represented the Lizons in criminal and civil matters.

Last July, Stephanie Lizon fled from her husband while at an equipment rental company, looking gaunt and limping. When she told staff she was trying to escape, an employee gave her the number for a domestic violence shelter and cash for a cab ride.

At the shelter, Stephanie Lizon told of being held captive. The criminal complaint said she had “mutilated and swollen” feet, and dozens of photographs showed burns on her back and breasts from irons and frying pans. She also had scars on her wrists and ankles.

Peter Lizon, a native of the Czech Republic, was under home confinement while awaiting trial and barred from having contact with his wife.

The judge allowed Lizon to be present for the birth of their daughter last week. On Monday, another judge removed the restrictions against the Lizons seeing each other, and the couple was together with the baby outside the courthouse.

“That’s a great relief to see these charges dismissed,” Stephanie Lizon said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a very, very long time.”

Earlier this year, the Lizons were arrested on charges they violated a custody order for their 2-year-old son.

Authorities had gone to the home after Stephanie Lizon’s parents, who had won custody of the boy last December, were unable to contact their daughter.

Peter Lizon was charged with obstruction for allegedly lying to authorities about the whereabouts of his wife and son. She was found with the boy and charged with child concealment, which was later dismissed, according to court documents.

A custody hearing for the son is set for Friday.

Stephanie Lizon said “the celebration can’t really happen until we have our son back with us.”

The Lizons’ home on their Jackson County farm burned to the ground in May and three people were charged with arson. Stephanie Lizon said the home remains off limits because of the arson investigation, although the family remains on the property.

“This certainly was an interesting year for us and very hard,” Peter Lizon said. “We pretty much lost everything we had and then some. We’re ready to rebuild and start our life over, I guess.”

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