A public school teacher and his wife from Oxon Hill were charged yesterday with the torture of a young neighbor who, according to police reports, was kidnaped by the couple, tied up their basement, set afire with lighter fluid and told he would be murdered by meat cleaver or chain saw.
The incident, police said, was sparked by a dispute about a small amount of marijuana.
The victim, Samuel Williams Jr., 18, who was suffering from third-degree burns yesterday at the Washington Hospital Center, said the couple held him captive in the basement of their Oxon Hill home for more than three hours Wednesday. He said they burned him with cigarettes, stuck a loaded pistol down his throat and threatened to chop his body to pieces with several devices. Doctors said Williams may require skin grafts on some of the burns, which cover 10 percent of his body.
Curtis Hines, 36, a sixth-grade teacher at the Friendship Learning Center in Southeast Washington, and Vera Hines, 34, a self-employed bookkeeper, were charged with kidnaping and assaulting Williams.
After hearing the charges and seeing a number of items confiscated from the couple's home which seemed to confirm Williams' story, U.S. District Court Magistrate Frederic N. Smalkin told the couple:
"Words fail me to adequately express the revulsion of the court at what can only be described as the degrading experience that occurred in this case."
Smalkin set bond for the couple at $75,000 each and sent them to the Baltimore City Jail.
Williams talked calmly yesterday about the harrowing experience.
"Well, I'm alive," said Williams. "So I can be calm now. But I was really shook up."
Williams said it all started Monday when the couple, who moved to the neighborhood from Alexandria last August, handed him $105 and asked him to buy a quarter kilo of marijuana for them. He said he tried to deliver it Tuesday.
"They didn't want the herb. They wanted their money back," Williams said. "I was going to sell it and give them their money back, so I bagged it up in nickel bags."
But before he could make the right connections, he said Hines intercepted him outside Williams' house and forced him down the street to the Hines residence.
Once there, the couple stretched him between two posts in the basement and started the tortures, Williams said.
"Mrs. Hines kept saying she wanted me to get them $200 and two pounds of marijuana," Williams said.
The couple emptied all but two bullets from a revolver and jammed the gun into Williams' ear and face Williams said. He said they then aimed it down his throat and took turns pulling the trigger.
Williams told police the restraining ropes broke when Mrs. Hines slapped his face, so they bound him on the floor with a rope and a yellow extension cord wrapped around his neck and said they were going to electrocute him. While Hines choked him and poked at his eyes, Mrs Hines jabbed sensitive parts of his chest, back and feet with a lit cigarette, Williams recalled today.
Then, Williams said, they covered his head with a white cloth bag and told him they were going to chop up his body with a chain saw. Williams said they moved the running blade around his body, but did not touch him.
Then Mrs. Hines doused his back, legs and groin with lighter fluid and lit it, Williams said.
Williams told police the couple showed him a meat cleaver, cutting board and butcher's mallet and told Williams they were going to burn the pieces of his body.Hines even left the basement for about 20 minutes, saying he was going to the fire departmento get a permit for a backyard wood fire, Williams said.
But they decided neighbors might notice, so they allegedly forced Williams at gunpoint into a car and drove to Fort Washington Park.
At Fort Washington, Mrs. Hines ordered Williams to get out of the car and told her husband to gag him again. Williams said he spotted a woman with children in the park and managed to edge toward her. Then he saw a park policemen and ran to him, ripping off his shirt to show the burns and warning them that Hines had a gun.
Williams said Hines ran off and threw the revolver into some bushes while his wife told the police that Williams had received his injuries from his friends. The police found the gun, and arrested the couple. Williams was taken by ambulance to the Washington Hospital Center. His ordeal had lasted some seven hours, he said.
Dr. Marion Jordan, interviewed yesterday at the hospital, said "it's probably unlikely" that Williams could have set himself on fire.
With the Hines' permission, police searched their house. Police found evidence of everything that Williams had described - Williams' burned clothes, a chain-saw, a yellow extension cord, a meat cleaver and a can of lighter fluid.
A public defender asked the magistrate yesterday to set a reasonable bail for the couple, arguing that Hines had once taught math in the Philippines during a tour with the Peace Corps and that Mrs. Hines, an ex-Marine, once coached a girls' softball team.
"They promise they won't harm Williams if released," Stanley J. Reed said. "They indicate Williams is a friend of theirs."
"Not any more he's not," the magistrate said. CAPTION: Picture, Nurse Meredith Higgins tends Williams' wounds. By Joe Heiberger - The Washington Post