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Man tells of being locked inside a cupboard in a trailer in California Valley

A man allegedly tortured by two men in California Valley last month escaped captivity by breaking free from the inside of a cupboard in a trailer, he told investigators.

The purported victim, 27-year-old Travis Dames of California Valley, described to detectives his torment over the course of three days in the remote eastern San Luis Obispo County community.

But no motive was identified in the account detailed in two search warrants filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court by the Sheriff’s Office. The warrants disclose the alleged victim’s name for the first time.

Suspects Daniel Andrew Zeller, 42, and Philip Clyde Williams, 44, both of California Valley, have pleaded not guilty to felony charges of torture, false imprisonment by violence, assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats.

They’re scheduled to appear in court before Judge John Trice on Thursday for a pre-preliminary hearing.

Dames told investigators Nov. 11 that three days earlier, he’d been asked by Zeller and Williams to help dig a koi pond at Williams’ home on Camarillo Road in the sparsely populated community south of Highway 58.

Dames told detectives that after he’d smoked a cigarette, he went into a trailer near Williams’ home on the property and Zeller told him to “get into the (expletive) cupboard and stay there” or else he’d be killed.

“While in the cupboard, Zeller allowed Dames to change out of his long pants into a pair of camouflage shorts,” one of the warrants notes.

Over the next three days, Dames claimed, the men assaulted and tortured him, using a hammer, dinner fork and blow torch in the process.

On the third day, Dames said he was able to free his hands, which had been bound with black tape.

Dames said he then undid latches on a panel inside the cupboard and kicked it open to escape, making it to the home of a friend who called 911.

Zeller and Williams tracked Dames down at the friend’s house, according to one of the warrants. There, Zeller punched Dames twice in the shoulder and demanded that he come with them, Dames told investigators. But Dames refused.

Zeller and Williams argued with the homeowner and threatened to burn down the house, but eventually they drove off, the warrants state.

Detectives described burns on Dames’ body that ranged from 1 inch to about 3 to 5 inches in diameter.

They also described scratched and black “X marks” on Dames’ back, as well as torn skin on his right pinky finger that Dames told investigators was caused by the claw of a hammer.

Investigators previously confirmed that the alleged victim and suspects knew one another but said they were unsure about the nature of their relationships.

In seeking the warrants, the Sheriff’s Office was searching for evidence indicating the assault occurred on the property. They were looking for hair, fiber and DNA to identify possible suspects, as well as some of the weapons involved.

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