The four mentally disabled people found chained inside a squalid Philadelphia basement on Saturday had been living in West Palm Beach until recently, the Palm Beach Post reported.
While the relatives of three of the mentally disabled adults have been located, police are still searching for the family of 40-year-old Herbert Knowles. Knowles has the mental capacity of a 10-year-old and may be from the state of Virginia, police say.
It was the landlord of the apartment building at 4724 Longshore Avenue in the Tacony section of the city who discovered the four mentally disabled adults locked in a boiler room in the sub-basement that was so small an average adult would be unable to stand up straight in the room.
Landlord Turgut Gozleveli thinks the victims were there for only a few days, as he says he works in the basement every day and found the victims Saturday. The landlord says one man chained to a boiler said nothing as he was freed.
Gozleveli says the alleged ringleader, 51-year-old Linda Ann Weston of the 2500 block of North 29th Street, is the mother of his tenant.
The Florida newspaper reported that the owner of the home at 52nd St. and Manning Ave. in West Palm Beach, Jeff Rouse, said Weston and Eddie Wright, who were arrested on Sunday, rented the house and wrecked it. He told the newspaper that Weston lived at the house with seven other people, including several mentally disabled people, whom she said were her children. Wright lived with three other adults in a separate dwelling behind the home, Rouse said.
Weston "seemed like a pretty nice woman," Rouse told the newspaper. He added that before they moved out, they were living without running water.
"No one was taking care of them," the Palm Beach Post reported neighbor Ronald Ross as saying.
Another neighbor, Delfina Zavala, said she saw a woman with bruises around her eyes.
Weston has already served four to 10 years for murder, police said. Police say Weston ran this operation that had been going on for more than a year- a scheme that originated in Texas and at one point went to Florida.
Gozleveli says he met Weston and her boyfriend, Eddie “the Rev. Ed” Wright, a 50-year-old homeless man, at the apartment Thursday. They are charged along with 47-year-old Gregory Thomas, who lived at the same address as Weston, with kidnapping, assault and other charges.
The sub-basement room they were in called to mind a Cold War-era bomb shelter and contained a makeshift bed, mattress and sheets, said Officer Tanya Little, a police spokeswoman. The adults were chained to the boiler with a bucket for a toilet and very little to eat or drink.
“It was horrible,” she said Sunday. “The space was very tiny and confined.”
The 29-year-old woman and the men, who are 31, 35, and 40, were taken to a hospital for treatment. Little said the victims appeared to have no physical problems other than malnourishment.
Philadelphia police and the FBI are investigating whether the suspects were holding the victims to collect their disability benefits.
It's not clear how the suspects knew the victims.