Crime

California Valley men charged with several felonies in torture case

Daniel Andrew Zeller, 42, was arrested Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, on suspicion of false imprisonment with violence, torture and possession of a controlled substance. Original story »
Daniel Andrew Zeller, 42, was arrested Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, on suspicion of false imprisonment with violence, torture and possession of a controlled substance. Original story »

Two men accused of torturing a 27-year-old man and holding him captive inside a remote California Valley trailer were charged Thursday with several felony counts.

The San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed charges Thursday afternoon in superior court against Daniel Andrew Zeller, 42, and Philip Clyde Williams Jr., 44.

Zeller and Williams face felony charges of torture, false imprisonment by violence, assault with a deadly weapon and making criminal threats.

Both men are being held at San Luis Obispo County Jail.

As part of the case filed by Deputy District Attorney Louise E. Comar, the men face 13 enhancements that could add many years to a prison sentence if they are convicted.

News of the alleged torture came to light Friday when the purported victim escaped from an isolated home on Camarillo Road north of Soda Lake, where he said he was being held.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the 27-year-old victim told deputies that he had been held for three days inside a trailer in California Valley and repeatedly burned with a blowtorch, hit with a hammer and stabbed with a fork.

Investigators have confirmed that the alleged victim and suspects knew each other, but they said they are unsure about the nature of their relationships.

The owner of the property where the trailer is located, 87-year-old Leora Mae Wadhams, could not be reached for comment. However, The Tribune has learned that she is married to one of the suspects in the case. Marriage records from Clark County, Nev., show that Wadhams married Williams on June 14.

A resident in California Valley said she was surprised by the union between Wadhams, an active member of the Mormon church in Atascadero, and Williams.

“Phil lived with his parents near Leora’s place,” said California Valley resident June Salinas. “I saw them at church one day, and she said they got married. I was surprised but not shocked. A lot of strange things go on out here.”

It is unclear how much, if anything, Wadhams knew about the kidnapping and torture.

Williams appeared in San Luis Obispo County court yesterday for unrelated drug charges.

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