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Peter Lizon, West Virginia man, kept his wife captive and tortured her for nearly a decade, sheriff says

Authorities say Peter Lizon tortured and enslaved his wife for much of the past decade, forcing her to endure two pregnancies and deliveries in shackles AP Photo/South Central Regional Jail

(CBS/AP) LEROY, W.Va. - West Virginia authorities arrested Peter Lizon, 37, on accusations that he kept his 43-year-old wife, Stephanie Lizon, captive and tortured for the better part of the decade, including leaving her shackled during childbirth.

Peter remains in jail on $300,000 bond. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing Friday on a malicious wounding charge, authorities said.

Investigators said they have 45 photographs showing burns on Stephanie's back and breasts from irons and frying pans, and scars on her wrists and ankles.

"This appears to go beyond abuse to what I would consider torture," Jackson County Chief Sheriff's Deputy Tony Boggs said Wednesday. Boggs said investigations are continuing.

Peter's attorney Shawn Bayliss said the allegations are "the fabrication of a fertile imagination or a feeble mind, one of the two."

"The alleged victim didn't make these accusations. It was a third party," Bayliss said. "Stephanie would say this story is absolutely untrue, and the charges levied against her husband are blatantly false."

On July 2, Stephanie fled to Parkersburg, about 50 miles north from her home in Leroy. Her husband was inside Bosley Rental & Supply returning a rototiller when she entered another part of the building and told the staff, "I'm trying to get away from my husband. I just need to hide for a few minutes," an employee told The Associated Press, requesting anonymity.

In an office, the wife "seemed pretty calm but kept looking out the window to see if he was looking for her," the employee said.

Stephanie told the staff she didn't want to involve police, but she accepted the number for the domestic violence shelter and called it, the employee said. She also called family to ask for money, and the employees gave her cash and called a cab to take her to a Western Union office and the shelter.

The woman was limping and had appeared to have some sort of injury, the employee said. And while her clothing was clean, she smelled bad. The husband did not come inside looking for his wife and police didn't come until several days later.

Stephanie told another woman at the shelter about the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her husband, according to the criminal complaint.

The criminal complaint said a witness at the Parkersburg shelter described Stephanie Lizon as "gaunt and filthy," and covered in scars, bruises and burns. She had "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.

Stephanie said her husband had smashed her foot with a piece of farm equipment, among other things. She was also called a "slave" and ordered to kneel before her husband every time she entered a room. She said she had 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 the child had never received medical attention. Boggs said state child-welfare authorities have been notified, but  Bayliss said the 1-year-old boy remains with his mother.

The complaint said investigators confirmed that the wife was treated in the emergency room of St. Joseph's Hospital in June and that photographs were taken at the shelter to document her injuries. A Sunbeam iron was among the items seized during a July 5 search of the couple's home. Lizon was arrested that day.

But Bayliss compared the charges to the childhood game of "telephone," where something whispered from one person to another ultimately bears no resemblance to reality.

"This is a situation where a person has taken a nugget of information, taken an acorn and tried to turn it into a tree," he said. "And the tree won't support this story."

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