Woman who held disabled people captive gets life in prison

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A woman who kept mentally disabled adults captive in the basement of a Philadelphia home and in other states for their disability checks was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.

Linda Weston, 55, apologized during the hearing, saying: “I believe in God and God knows what happened.”

U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe replied that: “There are a lot of people in this courtroom who know what happened too,” according to Philly.com.

Weston pleaded guilty in September to all 196 counts against her that also include kidnapping, racketeering conspiracy and murder in aid of racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking and fraud. Two women she held captive later died.

In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a life term. Her lawyers have said she wanted to plead guilty in the interest of her children.

Several victims described their horrific experiences before Thursday’s sentencing.

Weston has been in custody since October 2011, when a landlord found four bedraggled adults locked in a squalid boiler room of a home in the Tacony section of northeast Philadelphia and called police. One man was found chained to a boiler.

Authorities accused Weston of using “cunning, trickery, force and coercion” to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years.

They said Weston, her daughter and three others confined the victims like “zoo animals,” often in the dark, in basements, attics and closets at various times between 2001 and 2011.

The victims, who eventually totaled six disabled adults and four children, were often sedated with drugs in their food and drink, sometimes deprived of food and medical care and forced to use buckets for bathrooms, authorities said.

“When the individuals tried to escape, stole food, or otherwise protested their treatment, Weston and others punished them by slapping, punching, kicking, stabbing, burning and hitting them with closed hands, belts, sticks, bats and hammers or other objects, including the butt of a pistol,” prosecutors alleged.

Weston forced two female victims into prostitution to earn more money for the family when they lived in Texas and Florida, authorities alleged.

Two other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case and two others are awaiting trial.

More in News

A Princess Cruise Line ship is docked in Juneau on Aug. 25, 2021. (Michael Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Ships in Port for the week of Aug. 7

Here’s what to expect this week.

Supporters of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski wait for an opportunity to talk to her at her newly Juneau campaign headquarters Thursday evening at Kootznoowoo Plaza. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Murkowski opens up at Juneau HQ debut

Senator chats with supporters about U.S. vs. Belgium voting, moose chili and Project Veritas

U.S. Senate candidate Shoshana Gungurstein stars in a campaign sign within view of the Alaska governor’s mansion. Gungurstein, an independent, got exposure this week for being a Hollywood actress under a different last name after questions about her past went unanswered throughout the campaign. She is one of 19 candidates seeking to be among the four selected in next Tuesday’s primary to compete in the November general election. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Senate candidate sheds more light on background

Shoshana Gungurstein responds at length to recent report on past film career.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Drug arrest made in Skagway

Police say a suspicious package was intercepted.

This late-April photo shows a damaged sticker on a door at Thunder Mountain High School reminding people to social distance and wear masks inside the building. Masks will not be required in school buildings this year. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
No mandatory masks or COVID-19 tests for new school year

No mandatory masks or COVID-19 tests for new school year

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday Aug. 12, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

From left, Kelsey Dean, watershed scientist with the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and Kaagwaan Eesh Manuel Rose-Bell of Keex’ Kwáan watch as crew members set up tools to drag a log into place. Healthy salmon habitat requires woody debris, typically provided by falling branches and trees, which helps create deep salmon pools and varied stream structure. (Courtesy Photos / Mary Catharine Martin)
 
The SalmonState: Bringing the sockeye home

Klawock Indigenous Stewards and partners are working to a once prolific sockeye salmon run.

(Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police ID man missing from cruise ship

Coast Guard suspends search efforts

Most Read