NBCPhiladelphia.com - Justin Pizzi
Four mentally challenged adults were held hostage in the basement of a Philadelphia Apartment.
Police are trying to find the family of a mentally disabled man found with three other disabled adults chained inside a squalid Philadelphia basement Saturday.
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.
Weston served eight years in the starvation death of Bernardo Ramos, 25, after he refused to support her sister's unborn child, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Weston held Ramos in the closet of her North Philadelphia apartment in 1981 until he died.
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.