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Prosecutor links case to satanism

Prosecutors have charged three people, including two ranking members of the Durham County Democratic Party, as part of an investigation into allegations of rape and kidnapping that prosecutors said involved satanic worship.

The latest person charged is Diana Palmer, 44, the first vice chairwoman of the county Democratic Party. She turned herself in to police Wednesday afternoon and was charged with one count of accessory after the fact of assault with deadly weapon inflicting serious injury.

Palmer's arrest came five days after police arrested Joy Johnson, 30, the county party's third vice chairwoman, and her husband, Joseph Scott Craig, 25.

Authorities have said little about the case outside of the information included in arrest warrants, which allege that Craig beat a man and a woman, raped the woman and that Johnson watched as he did so. Durham County Assistant District Attorney Mark McCullough said earlier this week that charges stemmed from some sort of satanic ritual.

Attorney Bill Thomas said Palmer denies any association with satanic worship or any knowledge of a crime. He said the allegation against her is that Johnson or Craig asked her to take some items away from their house.

“The Durham Police Department has knowledge that my client was not present and did not have knowledge of crimes for which others have been arrested, and I hope the investigator will share this with the public,” Thomas said.

Craig faces 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 inflicting serious injury. Johnson faces several counts of felony aiding and abetting.

Court documents filed this week said the incidents occurred in December 2007 and in January and May. The warrants accuse Johnson of “instigating and encouraging” her husband as he handcuffed a man and forced him “into a dog cage, leaving him there for hours, terrorizing him.”

Other charges against Johnson stem from accusations made by a woman who listed the couple's home as her address. The man listed in the warrants as having been caged also lived at the house.

Craig and Johnson are being held in the Durham County Jail. The Durham County Public Defender's office was still assigning attorneys to their case.

Bond was being set for Palmer late Wednesday. The three were partners in a company called Indigo Dawn. Its Web site says the company offers services including “intuitive guidance, past-life regression, spirit guide communication and healing and cleansing.”

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