Eastern Kentucky Woman Held Against Her Will

A Perry county woman is still recovering after being held captive in a utility closet for four months.

Investigators say 42-year old Donna Hicks is covered in bruises and can't speak.

Police arrested four people and charged them with unlawful imprisonment.

AP Story

Associated Press Writer

HAZARD, Ky. (AP) - An eastern Kentucky woman is recovering at a hospital after enduring four months of imprisonment by two Appalachian couples who kept her in a utility closet and beat her with belts and extension cords, police said Wednesday.

Donna Hicks, 42, was held against her will and abused by Charlotte Crawford and Billy R. Williams at the couple's home in the Dwarf community, about 15 miles north of Hazard, said Kentucky State Police Detective Dean Craft. Crawford's son, Billy R. Crawford, and daughter-in-law, Penny Ford, who live less than a mile away, also took part in beating and whipping Hicks, Craft said.

The home where the alleged abuse took place was surrounded by nearly a dozen others along a mountain highway on the outskirts of Hazard.

The four suspects, each held at the Hazard jail on a $100,000 cash bond, have denied the allegations. Each has been charged with felony criminal abuse and unlawful imprisonment.

The suspects were appointed public defenders, who were in court and unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

Hicks had lived with the elder couple for about a year, but police say the abuse and imprisonment started in July 2007. Craft said Hicks was kicked and punched, and whipped with belts and extension cords.

Craft said investigators were tipped off on Nov. 11 by an anonymous caller. When police arrived at the home, they found Charlotte Crawford and her son there with Hicks held inside a utility closet.

"She was mentally and physically abused," Craft said. "She was covered in bruises from head to toe."

The bruising revealed that Hicks had been tightly restrained for weeks, he said.

Hicks still is being treated for dehydration and malnutrition, Craft said. He said that her injuries are so severe, she isn't able to speak yet.

Hicks' relationship with the suspects and the living arrangements remained unclear, Craft said.

Charlotte Crawford, 52, Williams, 59, Ford, 30, and Billy Crawford, 24, face a grand jury this month.

Police are still investigating the incident. Hicks' case has also been referred to the Kentucky Department of Protection and Permanency, which seeks to ensure the safety and stability of vulnerable adults.

The state agency declined to comment, citing privacy laws.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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