Story Summary

Man Held Ex Captive in Attic

Deputies say a woman was held captive in an Oroville area home by her ex for nearly two weeks, before being able to send a text message to her mother about her situation.

Investigators found her hidden behind a newly-sealed wall.

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If you’d been dry-walled into an attic room after two weeks of rape and beatings, is there anything that could make you defend the man that hurt you?

And sealed you inside? Don’t answer so fast.

“Anytime somebody’s held captive, they’re on an emotional roller coaster that the captor is keeping them on,” said Beth Hassett, executive director of the anti- domestic violence group WEAVE.

Experts say the woman recently rescued from the attic in an Oroville home – the woman now recanting a frightening story of abuse at the hands of her estranged husband, Lawson Rankin – may be on that kind of cruel roller coaster.

“They’re needing things from the abuser. The abuser gives it to them, the abuser withholds it from them so it confuses them and they become reliant on the person,” said Hassett.

It’s called Stockholm syndrome or “capture bonding.”

“And so it’s not uncommon even after they’re away from that person to keep going through that cycle of dependency and even love,” said Hassett.

Perhaps the most famous case involved Californian and publishing heiress Patty Hearst.

She was later pardoned by President Clinton after joining forces and robbing a bank with members of the Symbionese Liberation Army – the group that kidnapped her in 1974.

“We tell them it’s not their fault and that they don’t deserve it,” said Hassett.

For Hassett who deals with the victims of violence every day, she says the confusing impact of Stockholm syndrome is just one more reason the abused need so much compassion from society.

If you’re being abused, you can call weave for help 24/7 at (916) 920-2952.

orovillehomeBUTTE COUNTY-

A woman who said she had been held captive by her ex in their Oroville home for two weeks, now recants her story.

According to the Butte County District Attorney’s office, the woman is recanting her story of being abused and kept in an attic, however they are going ahead with the charges.

Monday, Sheriff’s deputies found Lawson Rankin covered in drywall mud. Deputies tore down the fresh patch of drywall, and found the woman they were looking for in the attic.

“(Rankin) denied that his wife was present, told us the wife was not there and hadn’t seen her since August,” said Lt. Alan Smith, with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office.

The woman told deputies she had been there for two weeks, and that Rankin had assaulted her.

“According to the victim, she was beaten on a daily basis and was also sexually assaulted while she was up in this area and she was afraid to leave the area, in fear for her life,” Smith told FOX40.

However, the woman later recanted her story to investigators and called the district attorney not wanting to testify. She told him she was in the attic so that Rankin would not get into trouble with his parole officer.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey is going forward with the charges against Rankin. He told FOX40 there have been three separate domestic abuse incidents between the woman and Rankin in the last year and a half. In one of them, the woman showed up to court over the summer with a black eye, and refused to testify against Rankin.

“It’s not unusual for victims of domestic violence that have been severely injured, that are still in love with their abuser and when law enforcement comes and gets them out of the situation, they change their story around,” Ramsey said.

Friends of Rankin spoke to FOX40 Thursday, defending him.

“I was here. If that lady’s life was in jeopardy I would’ve seen. I wouldn’t have sat back and let that happen. What kind of man would that make me? No better than what they say he is,” said Russell Blair, who lives on Rankin’s property.

Another friend, who did not wish to be identified, said the woman could have left at any time.

“The purpose of staying in the attic was to avoid the fact there was a restraining order against him from seeing her,” Ramsey said. “If his parole officer had come by, or law enforcement had come by, then they would not see her. She was in love with him, that she wanted to remain out of sight, but with him.”

Sam Cohen and Ian McDonald contributed to this report.


Butte County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a man Monday after they say they found him in the middle of sealing a woman into his attic.

Deputies arrived at 29-year-old Lawson Rankin’s home on Lincoln Boulevard in Oroville. They were there to do a welfare check on an unidentified woman. Rankin denied seeing the woman, the Sheriff’s Department said Wednesday.

“The victim told the Sheriff’s Office that he sealed her up in the attic to prevent her from testifying about some crimes and a sexual assault he had committed,” said Mike Ramsey, with the Butte County DA’s office.

lawson rankin

Booking photo of Lawson Rankin

During the check, deputies say they noticed Rankin was covered in drywall mud and saw an area in the kitchen that had recently been gone over and was still wet. Deputies broke the drywall seal and found the woman they were looking for in the attic.

The woman told deputies that Rankin had held her captive for two weeks and sexually assaulted her several times. Deputies say Rankin was slapped with a domestic violence restraining order earlier in 2012.

“They noticed there was a fresh piece of dry wall over the normal entry to the attic. It had tape and mud put on the wall, a heater was drying  that,” said Ramsey.

Rankin was arrested for parole violation, torture, false imprisonment, domestic battery, spousal rape, witness intimidation and violation of a court order. He was booked into the Butte County Jail and is being held without bail.