3 charged after 4 disabled adults found locked in basement

TACONY - October 17, 2011

Authorities say they found three men and one woman locked up alongside dogs. The four range in age from 29 to 41. A 41-year-old man was chained to the boiler.

The suspects, 51-year-old Linda Ann Weston, 47-year-old Gregory Thomas, and 49-year-old Eddie Wright all face a list of criminal charges.

Thomas and Weston were arrested Saturday night at the home of Thomas' cousin Rob Taylor on the 2500 block of North 29th Street.

Action News spoke with Taylor who said his family had warned Thomas about Weston for the last decade, but she managed to control him with money and affection.

"He called me from Texas and I said, you know, your father died, and he said he wanted to come home but she wouldn't give him any money," said Taylor.

Action News also spoke with a maintenance man named Turgutn, who recalls his suspicions the night the adults were discovered.

Turgutn heard dogs barking in the subbasement boiler room of 4724 Longshore Avenue Saturday morning.

He became alarmed when he found the door chained up and called police.

"They were in poor shape, terrible shape, and they were scared," Turgutn said.

On Sunday afternoon, police still guarded the property on the 4700 block of Longshore Avenue.

Police believe the four victims had been transported from Texas to Florida and then on to Philadelphia.

In West Palm Beach, Florida, neighbors confirm to Action News that Weston and Thomas lived in a house with multiple mentally challenged adults.

"You'll hear them cursing and yelling at them, even the little kids. Their handicapped but you should still treat them with respect," said Exzavious Daniels.

Police say the victims may have been in the 15 foot by by 15 foot Tacony basement for up to a week.

"When you look at the conditions under which they were kept, it's something out of a dungeon actually," Philadelphia Police Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross said.

The suspects now face charges of aggravated assault, kidnapping, and unlawful restraint among others.

"From aggravated assault to kidnapping to false imprisonment, you name it, we're going to stick it on them," Philadelphia Police Lt. Ray Evers said.

The four victims have been hospitalized for issues including bedsores and malnutrition. But because of their diminished mental capacities, police are having a hard time finding out more about them and their relationship to the suspects.

"This case just makes you shake your head; it's despicable and unspeakable," Ross said.

Rob Hoey lives in the building and never heard a thing.

"I work with people like that for years and I have a soft spot for people who are mentally challenged, so that's the thing that hurts the most," Hoey said.

Thomas and Wright were arraigned Sunday and are being held on $2.5 million bail each. As of Sunday evening, Weston was still being processed.

Police believe that Weston was the ringleader, who took of advantage her victims to cash their disability checks.

Court records show she pleaded guilty to murder in Philadelphia back in 1993.

On Monday, the FBI is set to start assisting in the investigation, largely to help police see if this incident is part of a larger human trafficking operation.

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