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'I Was Suffocating': Woman Testifies She Was Tortured By Alleged Cult Leader Lawrence Ray

"I was terrified. I was trembling. You can’t breathe. You want to breathe a lot. That just makes it much worse. It was terrifying,” Claudia Drury testified Thursday about an alleged seven-hour torture session at the hands of Lawrence Ray.

By Jill Sederstrom
Lawrence Ray Ap

A woman testified that she was tortured for hours by alleged sex cult leader Lawrence Ray, stripped down naked in a Manhattan hotel, handcuffed to a chair and suffocated with a plastic bag as he threatened to kill her.

“Over the course of seven or eight hours, he kept tying me, binding me to a chair, a desk chair in the room and suffocating me with a plastic bag, multiple times,” Claudia Drury testified, according to Law & Crime. “Choking me to the point of passing out with a leash and a collar that I had.”

According to her testimony, Ray forced her into prostitution then collected the $2.5 million she made from the sex work for himself, forcing her to work seven days a week and see as many as five men a day to bring in the cash.

Drury said the horrific seven-hour torture session occurred in October of 2018 after Ray had become enraged that she told one of her “main clients,” a man named Stuart, that Ray had published a list of her clients on a website, according to The New York Post.

After Ray learned that she had divulged the information, she testified that he came to the Gregory Hotel in Midtown—where she was living at the time—with his “lieutenant” and alleged accomplice, Isabella Pollok, who is facing her own charges in the case and has likewise pleaded not guilty.

Drury testified that Ray demanded she strip naked and handcuffed her legs and hands to a chair with props she had used with her clients.

“He started off by saying, ‘Trying to hurt my family? Trying to hurt me? Trying to hurt my family?’ And he was mad that I told Stuart about the website,” Drury testified. “He told me to strip naked. I did.”

For the next seven hours, Drury testified that Ray and Pollok tortured her, repeatedly suffocating her with a plastic bag and putting a pillow over her face as he threatened to kill her.

“I was suffocating. I was terrified. I was trembling. You can’t breathe. You want to breathe a lot. That just makes it much worse. It was terrifying,” she testified in court in Ray’s sex trafficking and racketeering trial Thursday.

At one point, after threatening to “waterboard” her, Drury said Ray doused her with cold water and moved her in front of an air conditioning vent.

“After the water evaporated, I became very, very cold to the point of becoming woozy or dizzy,” she testified, according to Law & Crime.

An audio recording of the alleged abuse was played in court as a visibly emotional Drury testified that she could hear herself “choking” on the recording.

Although Drury wasn’t given any food, she said Ray and Pollok took a break from the torture session to get burgers and fries from the nearby Starlight Dinner, telling her to “behave” while they were gone.

“He used the word ‘behave’—and work,” she said.

When the abuse ended, she went back to seeing clients.

“I was scared,” she said. “I thought that was the only way that I could feel a measure of safety the next day was to have money in my hand.”

Drury testified she saw the incident as a turning point and was eventually able to flee with the help of her regular client, Stuart, who set her up in a hotel in Philadelphia and helped her pay for an attorney.

On cross examination, Ray’s defense attorney Marne Lenox attacked Drury’s credibility, referencing her own admission she had told “stories” to impress her friends in the past, according to The Daily Mail.

Lenox also pointed out that Drury had initially been untruthful with prosecutors in 2020 and had lied to authorities to try to help Ray avoid an eviction from his home.

Lenox also questioned Drury about whether she had viewed sex work as “life-affirming,” and said she had voluntarily worked at a sex club before starting her own website to advertise her sex work services.

Drury's testimony had been interrupted earlier in the week when Ray had some type of medical episode and was rushed from court on a stretcher.

Ray, 62, is facing a series of charges against him including sex trafficking and extortion. He's pleaded not guilty in the case.

If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

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