Local News

AG likely to handle part of satanic cult case

Posted January 30, 2009 1:38 p.m. EST
Updated January 30, 2009 5:32 p.m. EST

— The state Attorney General's Office has informally agreed to take over the criminal cases against two former Durham County Democratic Party officials charged with aiding crimes that authorities say were carried out by a satanic cult, prosecutors said.

Joy Johnson, 30, and Dianna Palmer, 44, were charged last year after a man and a woman told police they were beaten, shackled to beds, kept in dog cages and starved inside a home on Albany Street.

Johnson's husband, Joseph Scott Craig, 25, was charged with three counts of second-degree kidnapping, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count each of second-degree rape and second-degree forcible sex offense in the case.

Prosecutors have said the man and a woman met Craig through a shared interest in Satan worship, but that they never consented to physical abuse.

Johnson was charged with two counts of aiding and abetting her husband, while Palmer was charged in July with one count of accessory after the fact of assault with a deadly weapon. Police said she knew about the alleged assaults and helped remove evidence from the home.

Before they resigned their positions last year, Palmer was the Durham County Democratic Party's first vice-chair, and Johnson was the third vice-chair, as well as the vice-chair of the Young Democrats.

Because Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline is a Democrat, the Attorney General's Office has unofficially agreed to handle Johnson's and Palmer's cases to avoid a conflict of interest. Durham prosecutors will continue to handle Craig's case.

Cline still must formally ask the state to take over the cases, said Noelle Talley, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.

The case against Palmer was dismissed Thursday when a judge refused to grant a delay requested by prosecutors. Charges could be revived if a grand jury were to indict her.

State Bureau of Investigation agents questioned Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez in the case. Lopez visited Craig's and Johnson's home at least once for a social gathering.

Prosecutors said Lopez's testimony would be irrelevant to the case, but it was unclear if he would be a witness at any criminal trial.