Jackson woman wants family, life back
It's been nearly a year since the Lizons of Jackson County made international headlines after allegations of brutal torture surfaced.
Peter Lizon, 39, has been arrested twice during that time, but he still hasn't been indicted on the felony malicious wounding charge that first landed him behind bars.
He was first arrested in July after a woman at a shelter told authorities he had brutally abused his wife, Stephanie, for more than a decade.
The woman said Stephanie told her Peter called her his slave and harmed her for years, even striking her while she was pregnant and causing a miscarriage. Peter also allegedly forced Stephanie to give birth to their living son in their home while bound in chains.
Stephanie has said she went to the shelter to cool off after she and her husband had argued. She said she has a dry manner of speaking that often is misunderstood and says that she never was mistreated by her husband.
He was free on a $300,000 bond when Jackson sheriff's deputies showed up at the Leroy area farm in late April looking for Stephanie and their son. Peter allegedly told deputies he hadn't seen them in months, but they turned out to be in the house.
Stephanie, 43, was arrested in that incident and charged with child concealment, a charge that was dropped after she spent a month in jail. Her parents, Thomas and Kathleen Hofeller, took custody of her 2-year-old son.
"This is going to be disposed of one way or another," Stephanie said of the charges against her husband during an interview with the Daily Mail. "I still don't understand why this case went beyond the preliminary hearing.
"They chose to assume my sworn testimony was false. There was no 911 call, there was no police report from me, no sworn statement from me. The first time I spoke to the authorities on this was when I gave my testimony, and it's been as if I'd said nothing at all."
A grand jury is scheduled to meet next week in Jackson County. It will mark the third time a grand jury has met since Peter's arrest.
Stephanie, who is about seven months pregnant, maintains her husband is innocent and that he's never harmed her or their son.
But while the boy is living in Virginia with his grandparents and Peter is on home confinement in the one-room cabin they lived in while building their house, Stephanie, essentially, is homeless.
She's not to have any contact with her husband. Their repeated pleas to the court to allow at least limited communication have been rejected, she said. She has extremely limited contact with her son, who she said turned 2 while she was in jail.
She said the latest incident was the result of complications from what was supposed to be a temporary guardianship situation. Stephanie and Peter gave her parents temporary custody of their son.
They agreed to bond conditions they thought they could live with for a short period, she said, meaning no direct contact with each other and supervised visits between Peter and their son.
She had been living with her parents in Alexandria, Va., while her husband stayed on their Leroy farm.
"We were victimized because we kept to ourselves and we're a little eccentric," she said. "We have a relationship that obviously people don't understand. We are deeply in love.
"I doubt most couples would accept an order from a county court to have no contact with each other."
Stephanie said she moved back to the farm with their son in December. The couple, who have been together 13 years and married 11, did not want to live apart any longer, she said.
"We were not willing to not live as a family," she said. "We were planning on having another child. I'm in my 40s. I don't have time to wait for Jackson County to tell me I'm allowed to have another baby."
She said Peter, a native of Slovakia who emigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago, is a wonderful father and she cherished the time she and their son got to spend with him over the winter. They lived together until the arrest.
The home they built together burned to the ground two days after they were arrested, something she said never would have happened had they been home. A day after the fire, Jackson deputies arrested Christopher Michael Hill, 32; Colena Kay Martin, 50; and her son, Daniel Martin, 34. All three were charged with first-degree arson.
Stephanie said the three had been caring for their animals last summer while she was away and Peter was in jail, but she suspected them when her home was burglarized that fall.
Her mother-in-law told her over the phone about the fire.
"I became hysterical," Stephanie said. "I cried. The first thing I thought of were my baby's footprints."
They had saved footprints, a lock of hair and pictures of their first child, but those were lost in the fire along with family photos, heirlooms and other precious items, she said.
Those were the only items they had to remember the child. Stephanie said the child was stillborn at a hospital after she had an accident on an all-terrain vehicle and was airlifted out of the woods.
She saw the burned-out shell of her home that evening on the television news.
And now they wait.
She said they're not afraid of indictment or trial but are concerned because trials take a lot of time and money. They've been advised to get through the criminal issues before trying to get their son back, she said, although she is starting the process of petitioning for guardianship anyway without a lawyer.
Despite that and everything else, she said if things go their way - meaning the charges against her husband are dismissed and they are granted custody of their son - they plan on staying at their farm in Jackson County.
"I want my son back and my life back and my family back," she said.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at email@example.com or 304-348-4850.