CORA, W.Va. -- Black ministers and national civil rights leaders on Saturday urged patience for the legal process and prayer for the physical and mental health of a Black woman who was allegedly tortured, beaten and sexually assaulted over several days.
With every pew filled and people standing in the back of a small church in Logan County, leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and local leaders shared information about hate crimes, led prayers and answered questions.
Most of the public's questions centered around the racial aspect of the case: Megan Williams was called a racial slur while she was being abused by at least one of the six white suspects, according to a criminal complaint.
The Rev. Gill Ford, a regional director for the NAACP, said he and other civil rights leaders discussed the topic of hate crime with Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham in a nearly three-hour meeting Friday.
"Everybody has a different way they define racism," Ford told the audience at St. Phillip Baptist Church. "The law looks at it in a different way than all of us look at it. So we need to start talking to each other so we are speaking the same language so when someone says racism or hate crime we know what they're talking about and we can respond intelligently."
U.S. Attorney Charles T. Miller has said there would be no federal charges for violations of equal rights laws. Logan County Prosecutor Brian Abraham can still pursue hate crime charges in West Virginia, but that will depend on the outcome of the investigation.
Williams, 20, of Charleston, was held captive for more than a week at a ramshackle trailer, where authorities say she was tortured, sexually assaulted and forced to eat animal droppings. Williams' ordeal ended when an anonymous tip led to her discovery by police.
Preliminary hearings for the six suspects are set to begin Monday.
--The Associated Press