A police officer stands in the basement room where four weak and malnourished mentally disabled adults, one chained to the boiler, were found locked inside. (Photo: AP Photo/Ron Cortes)
Human insensitivity has been taken to another level.
On Monday, Philadelphia police released pictures of a dark, filthy sub-basement space where four mentally challenged adults were chained and held captive by three suspects accused of stealing their disability checks.
The three suspects — ringleader Linda Ann Weston, 51, her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 47, and their accomplice, Eddie Wright, 49 — face multiple charges, including criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault and kidnapping for heartlessly confining and mistreating their four victims, who range from ages 29 to 40. Authorities described them as having the mental capacity of 10-year-olds.
Police believe that the suspects kept vulnerable people hostage so they could steal their Social Security checks. The four victims, who suffered from malnourishment, are now receiving medical treatment.
"That was real dirty of [her], that was wrong," one of the victims, Derwin McLemire, told a local Philadelphia station. "I escaped one time to one of the house[s] that we used to live in of hers, and I didn't get away so they got me."
Detectives found Social Security cards, court papers and other documents belonging to nearly 50 different people in the suspects’ apartment, suggesting that the theft scheme could involve more than the four who were found as captives.
The group originated in Texas, then moved to Florida, then Philadelphia, police say.
Some of the victims’ families thought their relatives had run away or had simply gone missing, as in the case of 29-year-old Tamara Breen, who had been reported missing by her family in 2005.
Weston had previously served eight years in prison for locking her sister's boyfriend in a closet and starving the 25-year-old man to death in the early 1980s.
On Monday, the bond for the two men was set for $2.5 million. Weston is still awaiting arraignment.
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