Philadelphia police: Disabled victimized by theft scheme

Gregory Thomas, Linda Ann Weston and Eddie Wright
Gregory Thomas, Linda Ann Weston and Eddie Wright AP Photo/Philadelphia Police Department

(CBS/KYW/AP) PHILADELPHIA - Linda Ann Weston, a woman convicted in the starvation death of a man nearly 30 years ago, is facing charges of kidnapping and false imprisonment for allegedly preying on four mentally disabled adults, locking them in a basement and gaining control of their Social Security disability checks.

Weston was charged Monday with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other offenses, with bail set at $2.5 million after her landlord stumbled upon the four adults, who were weak and malnourished, in a dark, foul smelling boiler room on Saturday.

Also charged were Eddie "the Rev. Ed" Wright and Gregory Thomas, as Philadelphia police and FBI investigate.

Detectives also found dozens of ID cards, power-of-attorney forms and other documents in the apartment, suggesting the alleged theft scheme involved more than just the four captives.

In 1983, a 13-year-old Philadelphia boy testified that his older sister had beaten another sister's boyfriend with a broomstick and locked him in a closet. The man died of starvation weeks later.

Weston was convicted of murder in that case, but it's not clear from court records how much time she spent in prison.

Now, Weston, 51, is accused of preying on four mentally disabled adults and locking them in a basement crawlspace in northeast Philadelphia.

One victim said he met Weston through an online dating service.

"That was real dirty of (her). That was wrong," Derwin McLemire told CBS affiliate KYW on Monday. "I escaped one time to one of the houses that we used to live in, of hers, and I didn't get away so they got me."

He and two others told the station they had been on the move for about a year with their alleged captors, traveling from Texas to Florida to Philadelphia.

"They moved them around," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Monday after examining the boiler room-turned-dungeon inside a small apartment house. "Whenever it looked like people knew what was going on, they moved."

The victms, ages 29 to 41, had the mental capacity of 10-year-old children, along with some physical disabilities, authorities said. One could barely see.

Since the arrests, police have slowly and patiently been trying to elicit information from the alleged captives. All four were treated at hospitals and placed with social service agencies.