Philadelphia basement captive case claims forced prostitution

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 20, 2011 5:23 PM
Philadelphia basement captive case claims forced prostitution

By Dave Warner

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A woman whose aunt is accused of holding her captive in a filthy Philadelphia basement testified on Tuesday she was forced into prostitution, made to drink her own urine and had her teeth knocked out.

Beatrice Weston, now 20, was one of four mentally challenged adults found locked in an apartment house furnace room by the landlord during a routine inspection this fall.

Her aunt, the alleged ringleader Linda Weston, 51, was among four people accused in what prosecutors believe was a scheme to steal Social Security benefits.

Charges against one of the four, Eddie Wright, 50, were dismissed on Tuesday.

At a preliminary hearing to decide whether the case should proceed to trial, Beatrice Weston testified about her years of captivity at homes around the country, recalling when they lived in Texas and her aunt sought men in a parking lot.

"She would call them up and make me have sex with them," said Beatrice Weston, who lived with her aunt since the age of 10, moving from Philadelphia to West Palm Beach, Florida, Texas twice and Virginia.

She and another captive, Tamara Breeden, now 29, were forced into prostitution, Beatrice Weston testified.

"She would tell us to have sex with the men and get the money from them," Beatrice Weston said.

At the close of the hearing, Municipal Court Judge Patrick Dugan decided all but Wright should go to trial on charges of kidnapping, conspiracy and assault.

In addition, the young woman's testimony immediately moved Assistant District Attorney Cheryl Yankolonis to seek an additional charge of promoting prostitution.

He set January 10 as the trial date for Linda Weston, her daughter Jean McIntosh, 32, who lived in the apartment house, and Gregory Thomas, 47.

In her testimony, Beatrice Weston described endless beatings with baseball bats, and once with a hammer, saying she and Breeden both had their teeth knocked out.

Her captivity included being locked for two weeks in an unlit closet in McIntosh's apartment that was so small she was not able to stand or extend her legs.

"They pushed me in the closet," she said.

She was forced to use a cup for a toilet and was allowed to leave the closet only occasionally to dump the contents of the cup.

During a trip to Philadelphia from Florida, Beatrice Weston testified, she was chained in the back of an SUV, with other people lying on top of her. The rear windows of the vehicle were covered with blankets so she could not see outside.

The trip took nearly two days and she was not allowed to use a bathroom and ended up urinating on herself. On another occasion in Florida she was forced by her aunt to drink her own urine, she testified.

Prosecutors have said it was all a scheme to steal Social Security benefits. Beatrice Weston said that when she was 11, her aunt took her to a psychiatrist in the process of applying for disability benefits.

"She told me to act crazy," Beatrice Weston said.

When Social Security denied her application, she said her aunt beat her, complaining that she failed to convince the psychiatrist she was mentally ill.

At one point, Judge Dugan chastised defendant Linda Wright and told her to stop mouthing words at the witness from her seat at the defense table.

"If I can read your lips, that means the witness can read lips." the judge said.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)