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Woman pleads guilty to W.Va. hate crime

/ Source: The Associated Press

A white woman pleaded guilty to a hate crime and other charges Thursday in the kidnapping and torture of a black woman who authorities say was held captive for days last summer.

Authorities say Karen Burton's crimes include stabbing Megan Williams in the ankle while saying, "This is what we do to n------ down here." She is the third in a group of seven people charged to plead guilty in the case, and the only one charged with a hate crime.

Burton does not remember much of the abuses against Williams, but she does not deny them, her lawyer Betty Gregory said.

Burton, 46, of Chapmanville, pleaded guilty in Logan County Circuit Court to malicious wounding, assault and violating Williams' civil rights, Gregory said.

Burton faces up to 30 years in prison at sentencing, set for March 3. Logan County Prosecuting Attorney Brian Abraham said he agreed to dismiss a kidnapping count that carries a maximum life sentence.

Prosecutors say Williams, 20, was held captive at a trailer in the Big Creek area of Logan County, about 35 miles southwest of Charleston. Williams said she was forced to eat animal feces, sexually assaulted and stabbed. She was rescued Sept. 8 after an anonymous caller alerted deputies.

Gregory said Burton's childhood was marred by physical and sexual abuse. As a 7-year-old, the lawyer said, Burton was abused and left in an open grave.

"It does not excuse" the attack on Williams, Gregory said. "And it's not that she didn't do the acts, but at some point she has been victimized so many times in her life, and she felt helpless and gave up and joined in."

Daughter, man also enter guilty pleas
Authorities made several arrests but angered many of Williams' supporters by initially refraining from charging any defendants with a hate crime. The hate-crime charge against Burton came when grand jury indictments in the case were handed down Tuesday.

Abraham has said that although other defendants used the same racial slur Burton used, her use of the word while stabbing Williams made her act more clearly a hate crime.

Karen Burton's daughter, 23-year-old Alisha Burton, and 27-year-old George A. Messer pleaded guilty last week to kidnapping and assault and received 10-year prison sentences.

Felony charges including kidnapping, sexual assault and conspiracy are pending against Bobby Brewster, 24; his mother, Frankie Brewster, 49, of Big Creek; and Danny Combs, 20, of Harts. All have denied wrongdoing. A seventh defendant was indicted this week on a misdemeanor battery charge.