Local News

Attorney denies suspect's knowledge of alleged cult crimes

Posted July 3, 2008 9:28 a.m. EDT
Updated July 3, 2008 5:59 p.m. EDT

— A second woman charged in connection with crimes authorities say were carried out by a satanic cult had no knowledge of them and did not participate, her attorney said Thursday.

"My client maintains her innocence and denies any involvement whatsoever in this entire episode," Durham attorney Bill Thomas said. "The alleged victims of this crime have told the Durham Police Department that my client was not present, nor did she have anything to do with this."

Diana Palmer, 44, of Cottage Woods Court was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of accessory after the fact of assault with a deadly weapon.

But police, in a warrant for Palmer's arrest, said she knew about an alleged assault and assisted Joseph Scott Craig with "removing items of evidence of the crime(s)" from a residence on Albany Street in Durham.

Craig, 25, and his wife, Joy Johnson, 30, were arrested last week after a man and a woman told authorities they were beaten, shackled to beds, kept in dog cages and starved.

The warrant for Palmer's arrest states she put the evidence in her trunk and "drove her vehicle to another location in an effort to conceal those items from detection of the Durham Police Department."

"She denies knowing about any crime, being connected with this crime or having anything at all to do with Satanism or any assault of any nature whatsoever," Thomas said, describing his client as a New Age Christian.

Thomas would not elaborate but said there could be problems with the credibility of two witnesses in the case.

Palmer was out of jail on a $30,000 bond Thursday; Craig, who is charged with three counts of second-degree kidnapping, one count of second-degree rape, one count of second-degree forcible sex offense and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, was in the Durham County jail under a $500,00 bond.

Johnson, charged with two counts of aiding and abetting, was being held under a $270,000 bond.

Assistant Durham County District Attorney Mark McCullough said during a bond hearing on Monday that a man and a woman met Craig through a shared interest in Satan worship, but the pair never consented to physical abuse.

Court documents filed this week accuse Johnson of "instigating and encouraging" her husband as he handcuffed the man and forced him "into a dog cage, leaving him there for hours, terrorizing him."

"This goes well above what they were interested in doing," McCullough said.

The documents said the incidents occurred in December 2007 and in January and May.

Craig's attorney, however has questioned whether authorities misunderstood was taking place inside his client's home, saying

"It sure seems to look like sadomasochism or some kind of consensual activity that maybe went too far," defense attorney Woody Vann told The News & Observer of Raleigh. "While it may not be normal activity for our everyday population, that doesn't mean it's criminal."

Craig and Johnson operate a business called Indigo Dawn Inc. that is described on a Web site as a spiritual growth service offering "past life reconstruction" and "communication with spirit guides."

The site talks about Johnson's activism and describes Craig as a reverend and a "devout student of magick."

Johnson was also the third vice-chair of the Durham County Democratic Party and vice-chair of the Young Democrats. She resigned from those positions following her arrest.

Palmer is first vice chair of the Durham County Democratic Party. She has not resigned, and state Democratic Party officials said they are waiting for more information about the case.