Arrests made in fire that destroyed home of couple in alleged torture case
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Jackson County deputies have arrested two people they believe may have set a fire that destroyed the home of Peter and Stephanie Lizon, the Leroy couple who made news last year after allegations surfaced that Peter had held Stephanie against her will in the home and brutally tortured her for years.
The Lizons currently are incarcerated. Stephanie is being held on child concealment charges. Peter is being held on obstruction charges.
Deputies arrested Colena Kay Martin, 50, and Christopher Michael Hill, 32, both of Ripley, on charges of first-degree arson. The pair is accused of burning the Lizons' Jackson County home to the ground either late Wednesday night or early Tuesday.
Jackson County Sheriff Tony Boggs said the two were arrested early Friday morning without incident. Hill and Martin live together and are in a relationship, Boggs said. The couple also knows the Lizons.
He would not comment on a possible motive in the arson.
Peter's lawyer Michael Hissam, an attorney with the Charleston-based firm Bailey and Glasser, said the Lizons had hired Martin to take care of some of their farm animals and dogs in the past.
Martin then began charging more and more for the same services and the Lizons opted to let her go in September, Hissam said.
No one was at the Lizons' home at the time of the blaze. Both Peter and Stephanie are being held in South Central Regional Jail after being arrested earlier this week.
Stephanie, 43, is being held on felony charges of child concealment. Peter, 39, is being housed on charges of obstructing.
Peter, a native of Czechoslovakia, came to the United States more than 20 years ago. They've been married more than 10 years. The Lizons moved onto the 38-acre farm at 465 Miller Hollow Road in 2006.
The blaze this week completely destroyed the home, leaving only charred remains and the house's foundation. Jackson County emergency dispatchers said a neighbor called for help after noticing the house was smoldering. A sheriff's deputy responded to the scene, but there was already little left.
No fire departments responded, a dispatcher said.
Peter and Stephanie were taken into custody at their home Monday morning.
After Peter was arrested last year on the charges of torturing his wife, Stephanie took their 2-year-old son to the home of her parents, Thomas and Kathleen Hofeller, in Arlington, Va.
Stephanie's parents were awarded permanent custody of their grandson in December.
Their lawyer, Barbra Utt, called the Jackson Sheriff's Department Monday morning to report that Stephanie had taken the boy from her parents' home. The Hofellers suspected she had taken the child to Jackson County to be with Peter and said they didn't want him to be around the child.
When deputies went to the home with a search warrant, Peter allegedly told them neither Stephanie nor the boy was there. He said he hadn't seen them in some time, according to a criminal complaint.
Then they heard a child crying inside.
They found Stephanie and the boy in a back bedroom. The boy was taken into Child Protective Services' custody and later turned over to his grandparents.
The initial allegations against Peter came out last July when Stephanie went to a women's shelter in Parkersburg.
Another woman at the shelter told authorities that Stephanie told her Peter kept her chained in their home, and that he'd struck her with a piece of farm equipment and with a hot frying pan.
She also said Stephanie told her that Peter once struck her and caused her to miscarry a child, and later forced her to deliver their living son while in chains.
Stephanie vehemently denied those claims in interviews with the Daily Mail, saying her husband never abused her or held her against her will.
She was upset that the two "most tragic" and "most beautiful" events in her life were turned into an "international mockery and scandal and crime."
Vandals have targeted the Lizons in the recent past, Hissam said. In 2009, Peter discovered that someone had shot a dead end sign he had placed on a fence post. The vandals also placed a hateful message on the sign calling Peter a "communist" and a "wife beater." The message also contained the words "Go back to the motherland."