NBCPhiladelphia.com - Justin Pizzi
New details are coming to light in a shocking human trafficking case in Philadelphia.
The alleged ringleader in the case of four mentally disabled adults found chained to a boiler in a Philadelphia basement spent eight years in prison for starving a man to death in 1981, reports say.
Linda Ann Weston, 51, was convicted of keeping 25-year-old Bernardo Ramos in the closet of her North Philadelphia apartment until he starved to death, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer after looking into articles and reports from the 1981 murder.
According to the reports, Weston locked Ramos in a closet until he died because he refused to pay child support for her sister’s unborn child.
The newspaper articles from 1981 state that Weston and her sister, Venus Weston, beat Ramos with a hammer, tied him up in the closet, fed him only three times over two months, and beat him with broomsticks, reports the Inquirer. They then dumped his body in an abandoned house.
Now, Weston is one of three suspects in the case of four mentally disabled adults found locked in a boiler room in the sub-basement of a Philadelphia apartment building Saturday.
It was the landlord of the apartment building at 4724 Longshore Avenue in the Tacony section of the city who discovered the four people, who all have the mental ability of a 10-year-old, in a boiler room that was so small an average adult would be unable to stand up straight in the room.
Relatives for three of the victims have been located but police are still searching for the family of 40-year-old Herbert Knowles. All four mentally disabled captives were taken to a hospital for treatment. Authorities said the victims appeared to have no physical problems other than malnourishment.
Police on Monday found Dozens of pieces of identification and power of attorney documents for the four victims, pointing to a wide-range fraud scheme.
Investigators are still processing the documents and reaching out to authorities in multiple jurisdictions, Lt. Ray Evers told The Associated Press.
Evers said Linda Ann Weston is suspected of running a long-standing fraud operation.
“Without a doubt, this is just the beginning of this investigation,” Evers said.
Evers told the AP that Weston may have met one of the victims through an online dating service.
“Talk about preying on the weak and weary,” Evers said. “You can't get any lower than this person.”
Evers said two of the victims are from Philadelphia -- one, a woman, had been listed as a missing person since 2005. The other is a man from North Carolina.
Weston, Gregory Thomas, 47, and Eddie Wright, 50, were charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, conspiracy, false imprisonment, reckless endangerment and related charges, cops said.
Thomas and Wright are being held on $500,000 bail following their arraignments Sunday. It is not yet clear if Weston has been arraigned.