Competency hearing possible in Philadelphia captive case

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 25, 2011 2:44 PM
Competency hearing possible in Philadelphia captive case

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The attorney for Linda Ann Weston, accused of locking four mentally challenged adults in a Philadelphia basement dungeon, said on Monday he may seek a hearing to determine if she is competent to stand trial.

Weston and three others face a slew of charges, including kidnapping and assault, after a building landlord found the captives in a filthy basement room earlier this month, including one found chained to an old furnace.

The kidnapping and captivity was believed to have been a scheme to steal and cash their Social Security checks, authorities have said.

Weston's attorney George Yacoubian said following a brief court hearing on Monday that a competency hearing for his 51-year-old client "is certainly a possibility."

The attorney said he spoke with Weston, identified by police as the ringleader in the case, for about 30 minutes on Saturday. He said she was "lethargic and fatigued".

"At this point, based on the short interview I had with her," he said, "I would say a competency hearing is probably a good idea."

But he said a final decision had not been made.

It would not be the first time Weston's competence to stand trial would be challenged. In a 1984 trial, when Weston was accused in the starvation death of a man she kept in an apartment closet, an expert submitted an opinion labeling her as mentally retarded, schizophrenic and epileptic.

The judge in that case delayed the trial and committed her to an institution for 60 days for treatment. A spokesman for the state Board of Probation and Parole said Weston ultimately served four years in prison for that crime.

She was released on parole on the condition she receive mandatory and intense supervision, be treated by a psychologist and psychiatrist, and remain on medications, board spokesman Leo Dunn said. But she disappeared in 1988.

"She was no longer reporting to an agent for supervision," he said. "We could not find her."

Neither Weston nor co-defendants Gregory Thomas, 47, and Eddie Wright, 50, appeared at Monday's hearing. Each was being held on $2.5 million bail each. Their next hearing was set for December.

A separate hearing was scheduled for Wednesday for a fourth suspect, Jean McIntosh, 32, who is Weston's daughter.

McIntosh, who was being held on $1 million bail, had an apartment in the building where the four captives were found.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)