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Woman found in attic recants story of abuse by husband, D.A. says

December 7, 2012 |  8:38 am

A woman who said she had been held captive for two weeks in an attic, raped and tortured by her estranged husband in their Northern California home has recanted, prosecutors said.

But the Butte County district attorney's office said it plans to continue prosecuting the case.

On Monday, sheriff's deputies arrested Lawson Rankin, 29, at his Oroville home after being sent to check on the welfare of a woman at the house. Authorities said they came upon him while he was sealing the entrance to the attic with his wife still inside.

Rankin "denied that his wife was present, told us the wife was not there and hadn't seen her since August," said Lt. Alan Smith of the Sheriff's Department.

Deputies say they noticed Rankin was covered in drywall mud and saw an area in the kitchen that still had wet drywall on it. Deputies broke the drywall seal and found  the woman they were looking for in the attic.

"The victim told the sheriff's office that he sealed her up in the attic to prevent her from testifying about some crimes and a sexual assault he had committed," said Mike Ramsey of the Butte County district attorney's office.

The woman told deputies that Rankin had held her captive for two weeks and sexually assaulted her several times. She told authorities she had also been beaten on a daily basis and was afraid to leave. Deputies say Rankin had also been issued a domestic violence restraining order earlier in 2012.

Rankin was arrested on suspicion of torture, false imprisonment, domestic battery, spousal rape, witness intimidation and violation of a court order. He was booked into the Butte County Jail and is being held without bail.

But now, his wife has recanted and has told prosecutors she does not want to testify. She now says she was in the attic so that Rankin would not get in trouble with his parole officer, according to authorities.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey said his office will move forward with the case against Rankin. He said there have been three separate domestic abuse incidents involving the couple in the last year and a half. In one case, the woman showed up with a black eye, but refused to testify against Rankin.

"It's not unusual for victims of domestic violence that have been severely injured, that are still in love with their abuser and when law enforcement comes and gets them out of the situation, they change their story around," Ramsey said.


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-- Fox 40 Sacramento