Local News

Cult case moves slowly through Durham court

Posted July 7, 2008 10:12 a.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2008 7:25 p.m. EDT

— Prosecutors revealed during a hearing Monday that the victims of a alleged cult abuse were a 19-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman.

The statements from Assistant Durham District Attorney Jan Paul came the same day that a search warrant became public and showed the two lived with the couple who they allege starved and beat them.

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

The victims met Johnson and Craig through the Web site for Indigo Dawn Inc., a business that Johnson and Craig operated. The company is a spiritual growth service offering "past-life reconstruction" and "communication with spirit guides,” according to the company's Web site. The site talks about Johnson's activism and describes Craig as a reverend and a "devout student of magick."

Elizabeth Curran, Johnson's attorney, asked Monday for a probable cause hearing to determine if there had been sufficient evidence for officials to bring the changes. That hearing was set for July 21 after the prosecution said it would need time.

Prosecutors say both victims are originally from out of state and have since left North Carolina. The District Attorney's Office says that so far, it hasn't been able to contact them and that the contact information is with an investigator who is on vacation for the next two weeks.

According to the warrant, Johnson and Craig described themselves as teachers of the Order of the Morning Star. The male victim went to live with the couple in November 2007, the female victim a month later.

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

According to the warrant, the male victim said he sustained numerous beatings and abuse from Craig with Johnson. On two occasions, the male victim said he was handcuffed to his bed by his hands and feet with a chain around his neck “and left there for a day without food or water.” The man also said he put in a dog cage for several hours.

Both victims said they were beaten with a cane. The female victim claimed Johnson held her hands down as Craig beat her with a cane. The female victim also reported being raped by Craig while Johnson watched.

All the alleged abuse occurred at a home on Albany Street in Durham. Investigators seized items including a computer, cell phone, digital camera, Web cam, brown rug, notepads, boxes of pictures and two black, studded straps.

Court documents filed last 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."

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

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

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."

Palmer's attorney, Bill Thomas, said his client is innocent and had no knowledge of the alleged abuse.

Palmer is out of jail on a $30,000 bond; 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 $500,000 bond.

Curran argued that Johnson, charged with two counts of aiding and abetting, should have her bond reduced to $10,000 so she could get out of jail while her case proceeds.

"Ms. Johnson is a college graduate. She's very active in the Durham community. She has lots of people supporting her," Curran said. In the end, bond was reduced from $270,000 to $220,000.