A woman who claimed she was kidnapped, raped and tortured in a ramshackle West Virginia trailer in 2007 now says she made the story up. But the man who prosecuted the case is calling that "absurd."
Megan Williams (Williams and her mother voluntarily released Megan's name publicly) had said she had been stabbed, beaten with sticks, sexually assaulted, doused with hot water, forced to eat animal feces and taunted with racial slurs. Williams is black, her alleged attackers white. Seven people, including three women, pleaded guilty. All but one received long prison sentences.
But now Williams says she lied. The Associated Press reports an unsigned statement released Wednesday by the her lawyer in Ohio, where she now lives, said simply, "Megan Williams is now recanting her story."
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," Abraham said. "This looks like another attempt to generate more publicity."
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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. Williams' own mother, who passed away in June, once described her daughter as "slow."
Instead, he said, the seven people charged with a variety of crimes were convicted based on their own statements and physical evidence.
Williams' supporters seem to be taking a wait-and-see attitude on this latest development, given her apparent limited capacities.
"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 NAACP in Logan and Boone counties. "We feel the legal system will handle it accordingly. We didn't rush to judgment then, and we're not rushing to judgment now."
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The Rev. Al Sharpton, who supported Williams, was contacted by Williams' lawyer on Tuesday, who told Sharpton that Williams wanted to apologize for lying. Sharpton quickly sent a letter to Logan County prosecutor John Bennett asking him to look into Williams' new claims. The letter said in part:
"If Ms. Williams has, in fact, fabricated her story, then I urge your office to vindicate any wrongfully convicted individuals."
Sharpton told the AP the matter should be handled delicately, citing "psychological issues" with Williams. "This isn't cut and dried either way," he said. "Right is right, but I have no idea if tomorrow her story will change back."