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Police say Jackson County man tortured wife

Chris Dorst
This is the home in Leroy where Jackson County police said Peter Lizon shackled and abused his wife for more than 10 years. Lizon's attorney said his client denies those allegations.

LEROY -- The neighbors of a Jackson County man accused of shackling and abusing his wife for more than 10 years said they tried to help the woman many times but she always returned to him.

Police arrested Peter Lizon, 37, of Leroy, last week and charged him with malicious wounding in connection to the "brutal injuries" his wife Stephanie reported to a crisis center worker, according to a criminal complaint filed in Jackson County Magistrate Court.

He's accused of keeping his wife, Stephanie, 43, locked with metal padlocks and chains for about 10 years, which caused severe injuries to her wrists and ankles, according to the complaint.

He allegedly smashed her foot with a tractor bucket and repeatedly burned her back and chest with a hot clothing iron. Stephanie also allegedly delivered a stillborn child while in chains. Another infant survived.

Peter Lizon is currently being held in the South Central Regional Jail in lieu of a $300,000 bail.

Lizon's lawyer said Wednesday that his client and Stephanie deny all of the allegations. The story has been misconstrued from a third party, he said, and in this case it's a crisis center worker who made up the allegations to gain attention.

Police said the allegations are some of the most heinous acts of domestic abuse they've investigated. Meanwhile, neighbors said they've heard about the alleged abuse for years and unsuccessfully tried to stop it.

'It's a fabrication of a feeble mind'

Shawn Bayliss, a Hurricane attorney, said the police investigation into his client hinges on the recollection of a crisis center worker.

According to the criminal complaint, Stephanie escaped from her husband while he was returning a rented garden tiller in Parkersburg on June 20. She hid away in a nearby business and then took a taxi to the Family Crisis Intervention Center nearby.

She befriended crisis worker Jacklyn Adkins and spent an entire night talking about the alleged abuse she suffered over the years, the criminal complaint said.

Adkins was so disturbed by Stephanie's story that she told Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney James McHugh after Stephanie left. McHugh reported what he heard to Jackson County Sheriff Capt. H.L. Faber, who launched an investigation.

"My client and his wife would say that criminal complaint in this matter does not reflect the incident as it occurred, nor does it reflect the information or anything that she ever said," Bayliss said Wednesday.

Bayliss said the allegations come from a third party story conveyed to law enforcement and not directly from Stephanie.

"This is a fabrication of a feeble mind," he said. "That woman [Adkins] created a fabrication to garner some kind of hero aspect for herself. I can assure you my client did not brand his wife with an iron nor did he keep her in chains."

Bayliss said Stephanie is sticking with her husband. No one answered the door at the Lizon home Wednesday. Thomas Brooks Hofeller, Stephanie's father, would not comment about his daughter's condition or about the case.

According to the criminal complaint, Capt. Faber confirmed that Stephanie 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. Faber seized 45 color photographs taken of Stephanie's injuries.

"I've reviewed the reported photos and they depict certain things," Bayliss said. "I can't tell you they're in line with what that woman [Adkins] says. They may show something but how something got there is an entirely different story."

Adkins told police she saw severe burns on Stephanie's breasts and back that appeared to have been caused by a clothing iron.

Stephanie also had a severely injured foot that Peter Lizon allegedly smashed with a tractor bucket, the criminal complaint said. Stephanie's fingers were also crooked after her husband allegedly broke them.

Stephanie allegedly told Adkins she was forced to give birth while in chains and that she and her 1-year-old boy never received medical attention.

Bayliss said that is not true and medical records prove it.

"People should reserve judgment in this matter," he said. "The evidence will show there is no criminal conduct here and that it's a gross overreaction to a sensational story told to a third party that used pieces of information without merit."

'Stay away from that house'

The doublewide trailer Lizon shares with his wife overlooks isolated farmland with meandering goats, chickens and turkeys. A long gravel road leads to the rust-colored home where police said Lizon abused his wife for more than a decade.

His closest neighbors said they never stepped foot on the property because Peter Lizon had garnered a dark reputation.

"I told my kids to stay away from that house," one neighbor said. "I had heard from many people that he was a mean man. I didn't want them going anywhere near there."

Lois Hill has lived across the road leading to Lizon's farm for about eight years. She's never met him or Stephanie, she said.

"Their turkeys used to get out and run over into the road and our yard," Hill said. "I never talked to them. They were strange people."

Hill said she never knew Lizon had a wife until an incident about three years ago. Several neighbors said they were startled when an air ambulance landed on the Lizon property after Stephanie had delivered a stillborn.

According to the criminal complaint, Stephanie told Adkins she lost the baby after her husband struck her in the stomach. She described the baby as fully developed and said Peter buried the baby on their farm.

Bayliss denied that and said the stillbirth was caused by an ATV accident.

Shortly after the baby's death, a group of neighbors got together in an attempt to help the woman.

"They picked her up and hauled her to a motel," one neighbor said. "She went right back to him. She beat them back home."

Both Peter and Stephanie Lizon were 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 Peter 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.

The Associated Press reported Stephanie Lizon entered a plea agreement that resulted in 40 hours of community service, plus restitution and fines. Court records also show that Stephanie Lizon was arrested on drug charges a few months later in Baltimore County, in December 2004. She pleaded guilty to a drug manufacturing and distribution charge in May 2005 and received probation.

Peter Lizon has a preliminary hearing Friday at 10 a.m. before Jackson County Magistrate Jacqueline Casto.

Reach Travis Crum at travis.crum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.

 


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