Children, teens in custody in Philadelphia dungeon case

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 19, 2011 8:18 PM
Children, teens in custody in Philadelphia dungeon case

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Eight children and teens linked to the accused Philadelphia basement captors were in protective custody on Wednesday, including a teen so badly abused that "it makes you want to cry," the city's Police Commissioner said.

Four accused captors are charged with kidnapping four mentally handicapped adults, each with the capacity of a 10-year-old child, found in a basement dungeon in what authorities said was a scheme to steal their Social Security disability checks.

The four adults, including one chained to a furnace, were discovered malnourished and imprisoned in the filthy basement room over the weekend. Authorities said two of those held had been captive for roughly 11 years.

Police said they also had eight children and teens in protective custody, the youngest a 2-year-old, and were working to determine the nature of their relationships with both the suspects and captives.

One of the teens, Beatrice Weston, 19, is a niece of suspect Linda Ann Weston and had been beaten and tortured, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said. She had been reported missing in 2009.

"It is remarkable that she is alive," Ramsey said, adding that she was covered in burn marks and suffered pellet gun wounds on her ankles.

"It is absolutely one of the worst things you can see," he said. "It makes you want to cry when you see it."

Police said that in addition to the eight children and teens, two other young people had also briefly been in custody before being released.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said he was not certain the word "horrific" was adequate to describe the situation.

"This is sheer madness," Nutter told a news conference, adding the case was an "incredibly tangled web of horror."

Linda Ann Weston, 51, of North Philadelphia; Gregory Thomas, 47, also of North Philadelphia; and Eddie Wright, 50, described as homeless, have all been arrested in the case, along with Jean McIntosh, 32, who is Weston's daughter and was arrested on Wednesday.

More than 30 years ago, Weston was convicted of starving to death a 25-year-old man in her apartment in North Philadelphia and served eight years in prison, authorities said.

The suspects in the current case were charged with a lengthy list of crimes, including kidnapping, conspiracy, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and assault. Authorities were also investigating a stash of Social Security cards and power of attorney documents found in a suspect's apartment.

Police say there may be as many as 50 victims in multiple states in the case that broke after the four captives were discovered by a landlord during a check of the two-story apartment house in the working class Tacony neighborhood.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)