One of Four Imprisoned in Basement Reported Missing in 2005

Police find victims, arrest suspects


One of four mentally handicapped people found chained in a Philadelphia basement over the weekend was reported missing in 2005, but the case was closed by police, reported Monday.

The woman found in the basement was identified by as 29-year-old Tamara Breeden.

Her family reported her missing in 2005. A Philadelphia detective closed her case last year even though she had not been found.

The other three victims were between the ages of 29 and 41. All four victims were said to have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds, making it difficult for authorities to identify them and notify their families.

Three of four of the victims say they were abused and kept captive by the woman charged with kidnapping and falsely imprisoning them.

In an interview with KYW-TV on Monday, Breeden, Derwin McLemire and Herbert Knowles said they were abused by Linda Ann Weston and two others while in her care for the last year.

Breeden says she was hit on her head and showed where she says her teeth were knocked out. McLemire says he met Weston through an online dating service and tried to escape but didn't get away "so they got" him.

Knowles was shackled to a boiler and says he was hit by one of the two men arrested with Weston, who's jailed and can't be reached for comment.

Dozens of pieces of identification and power of attorney documents were also discovered, indicating a possible wide-ranging fraud scheme, police said Monday.

Investigators are still processing the documents and reaching out to authorities in multiple jurisdictions while they try to find the family of one of the victims rescued Saturday from what police called deplorable conditions, Lt. Ray Evers told The Associated Press.

Evers said Weston is suspected of running a long-standing fraud operation. Authorities say Weston and two other suspects may have been holding the four people found in the basement hostage and collecting their disability checks.

"Without a doubt, this is just the beginning of this investigation," Evers said.

The victims were rescued from the basement of the northeast Philadelphia apartment building on Saturday after the landlord shined a flashlight behind a steel door that had been chained shut. 

The space was too small for an adult to stand up straight and reeked of waste from the buckets the victims used to relieve themselves, according to police.

Weston's daughter had been renting the two-bedroom apartment without incident for about a year and lived there with her two teenagers, paying $750 a month with cash or a money order, landlord Turgut Gozleveli said. Like other tenants in the seven-unit building, she had a key to the basement.

During his daily stop at the building on Thursday, the landlord met her mother and the mother's boyfriend, "Rev. Ed."

On Saturday, he heard dogs barking when he was in the basement, where he keeps his maintenance tools, and found a chain across the door to the sub-basement.

He found three dogs and four people.

"I asked them what they are doing here, and how they got in. There was no communication. I asked questions, and I don't get any answers," said Gozleveli, 71, who freed the chained man and called the police.

"He was just watching me when I cut the chain."

Detectives have been able to make contact with the families of three of the victims, but were still trying to reach the family of a fourth. Evers identified him as Herbert Knowles, 40. He may be from Virginia, Evers said.

"Out of the four, he has the most disabilities," Evers said. "He was so happy to be in the hospital and eat food. The detective says he's like a new person just hours after captivity."

"Talk about preying on the weak and weary," Evers said. "You can't get any lower than this person."

Charges of criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, criminal trespass, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment and related offenses were filed Sunday against Weston, 51, and Gregory Thomas, 47, both of Philadelphia, as well as Eddie Wright, 50, officially listed as homeless but originally from Texas. Listed phone numbers for the defendants could not be found and it was unclear whether they had attorneys.

Weston was being held on $2.5 million bail after being arraigned Monday on charges including conspiracy, kidnapping, false imprisonment and aggravated assault.

Thomas and Wright were being held on $500,000 bail following their arraignments Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report