Published October 18, 2011
Police are investigating the whereabouts of 50 more possible victims after four mentally challenged people were found in a basement dungeon in a Philadelphia home that local media are dubbing a “house of horrors,” authorities said.
Philadelphia police created a task force to locate the owners of Social Security cards, drivers' licenses and other forms of identification that were discovered early in the investigation.
“We want to make sure those individuals are safe,” Tanya Little, a spokeswoman from the Philadelphia police, told FoxNews.com. “It’s early in the investigation, but we certainly want to locate them.”
Authorities began the investigation shortly after four mentally challenged adults were found chained in Draconian conditions below a basement in a northeast Philadelphia apartment, Little said. Though they were adults, Little said they had the mental capacity of 10-year-olds.
Three suspects were promptly charged with kidnapping in an alleged scheme to collect victims' Social Security checks, MyFoxPhilly.com reported.
Linda Ann Weston, her 47-year-old boyfriend, Thomas Gregory, and 50-year-old Eddie Wright, who is homeless, were arrested last weekend and charged with criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping and other related charges, the TV station reported.
Weston's daughter had been renting the two-bedroom apartment 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.
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.
"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."
The space was too small for an adult to stand up and reeked of waste from the buckets the victims used to relieve themselves, according to police.
Three victims say they were abused and kept captive by Weston, 51, who had her bail set at $2.5 million.
Tamara Breeden, 29, who disappeared in 2005, was identified by the station as one of the victims. The others were between the ages of 29 and 41.
In an interview with KYW-TV on Monday, Breeden, Derwin McLemire and Herbert Knowles said they were abused by Weston and two others for the past year.
Breeden showed the station where she says her teeth were knocked out. McLemire says he met Weston through an online dating service.
Knowles was shackled to a boiler and says he was hit by one of the two men arrested with Weston.
Detectives have been able to make contact with the families of three victims, but unable to reach the family of the fourth. Evers identified him as Herbert Knowles, 40. He may be from Virginia. "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."
Thomas and Wright were being held on $500,000 bail following their arraignments Sunday.
Benita Rodriguez, 15, the girlfriend of the son of one of the suspects who was last seen on July 4 at her home in Palm Beach, Fla., was also found by police during the investigation, authorities said.
Newscore and the Associated Press contributed to this report.