Watch CBSN Live

Fork, hammer, blowtorch: Two accused in bizarre Calif. torture case avoid prison


Phillip Clyde Williams, Jr. and Daniel Andrew Zeller KCOY

(CBS/AP) SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - Two men originally charged in a bizarre torture case have pleaded no contest to felony assault in a deal that spared them prison time.

Daniel Andrew Zeller and Philip Clyde Williams Jr. were accused of holding Travis Michael Lord captive for three days last November inside a rural California Valley trailer, where he was stabbed with a fork, hit with a hammer and burned with a blowtorch.

Charges of torture and false imprisonment were dropped against Zeller and Williams as part of a plea deal. Lord, who was himself convicted in 2003 for molesting a boy in New York, was sentenced Tuesday to prison for failing to register as a sex offender.

Authorities never offered a motive for the alleged torture, and the men all gave conflicting accounts that couldn't be resolved, the San Luis Obispo County Tribune reported.

"Credibility problems surfaced, and all the parties involved in the investigation portrayed the events differently," a county probation report stated.

"It was difficult to obtain a chronological and detailed interview with the victim as at times he was uncooperative and complained about questions," the probation report stated.

Lord told investigators Zeller and Williams tortured him in the trailer for three days and that he escaped on Nov. 11. Zeller, who said he had been on a 32-day methamphetamine binge with Lord, denied any torture.

"I got into a fight with him because he told me he was a child molester," Zeller told probation officials. "I told him to leave my place and he wouldn't leave. I flipped out on him, and I am sorry for hurting him," he said.

Williams, 45, said he wasn't involved in the incident and that his wife wouldn't have stood for it, according to the probation report. His marriage to 87-year-old Leora Wadhams in June in Nevada was annulled in December because "the victim in this case was going to sue for their property," the probation report stated.

"They plan on marrying shortly after he's released from custody," the report added.

Zeller and Williams had been held for about four months in jail, and were given credit for time served. San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge John Trice on Tuesday also placed them on three years' probation.

More on Crimesider
Nov. 15, 2011 - Police: Two Calif. men kidnapped, tortured victim with fork and hammer

View CBS News In