Entries in Mentally Disabled (3)


Missing Girl Linked to Philly Basement Dungeon

ABC News(PHILADELPHIA) -- A Florida teenager who ran away to be with her boyfriend in Philadelphia was found by police investigating a basement dungeon in which four mentally handicapped adults were being imprisoned, according to police.

Benita Rodriguez, 15, was reported missing in July from her West Palm Beach home. She traveled to Philadelphia to be with her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas Jr., whom she met when they were neighbors in Florida, police said.

Police said they are not certain yet whether Rodriguez knew about the alleged kidnapping and imprisonment operation in the Thomas home, but suspect that she may have just been "hanging out."

The teenager was located by police Monday night and her mother was notified, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI.

"I just want to hold her and love her," Juana Rodriguez, the girl's mother, told WPVI. "I can breathe, I can breathe. She's doing good, she's okay."

The age of her boyfriend was not immediately available.

The boyfriend's father, Gregory Thomas, Sr., 47, is accused of having helped to traffic the imprisoned individuals from Florida to Philadelphia with his girlfriend, Linda Weston, 51, the suspected ringleader in the case.

Police have said that Weston and Thomas, with the help of a third man, Eddie Wright, may have stolen the identities and Social Security checks of at least 50 people whose documents they found inside the home where Weston and Thomas were living.

Possible victims include individuals from Virginia, Texas, Arizona, Kansas and Florida, they said.

Police say that Weston, who was previously sentenced to eight years in prison for locking a man in a closet until he died of starvation, may have begun trafficking and stealing identification documents shortly after being released from prison, police said. Authorities expect the investigation to uncover many more victims and a widespread fraud scheme.

The victims that were discovered in the Philadelphia basement have been identified as Herbert Knowles, 40, Tamara Breeden, 29, and Derwin McLemire, 41. A fourth man's name has not been released.

The victims are being treated at Philadelphia hospitals while their families are notified that they have been found, police said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mentally Disabled Adults Found Locked in Basement; Three Charged

Linda Ann Weston, Thomas Gregory and Eddie Wright were arrested for their involvement in kidnapping of four mentally challenged adults. Philadelphia Police Department(PHILADELPHIA) -- Four mentally disabled adults, with the estimated mental capacity of 10-year-olds, were found chained to a boiler in a Philadelphia apartment house basement, reeking of excrement from the bucket they were forced to use, police said Sunday.

Linda Ann Weston, 51, and Thomas Gregory, 47, both of Philadelphia, and Eddie Wright, 49, a homeless man from Texas, all face multiple charges in a case that is also being investigated by police in Texas and Florida.

"Criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, trespassing, kidnapping, simple assault, reckless endangerment of persons, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment," are the initial charges, Philadelphia Police Department spokeswoman Officer Tanya Little said. "As the investigation goes on, there may be more charges added."

Investigators believe the four disabled adults, aged 29, 31, 35 and 41, were transported from Texas, through Florida and then to Philadelphia, Little said.

The four, who appeared to be malnourished while locked in the basement, were examined at Frankford South Hospital for and listed in stable condition.

"They were able to communicate that they do know all parties that were withholding them from the outside world," Little said. "One -- the 31-year-old -- may have been with them for a while. It may be Linda's child. She may just be a caregiver. But he said, 'My mom brought us from Florida to Philadelphia.'"

The investigation is ongoing and a city agency serving the disabled has taken the four adults into its care.

The four, who were believed to have been brought to Philadelphia roughly 10 days ago, were discovered by the owner of the two-story, multi-unit apartment house on Longshore Avenue in northeast Philadelphia.

As the man cleared what he said was an unusual amount of trash from his rental property, he also noticed light bulbs and other basic supplies missing from one of the apartments and the locked basement door, the police spokeswoman said.

"He heard dogs barking and took it upon himself to look further and, to his surprise," Little said, "this is the outcome."

Two adult children of Weston's who lived in the house were not arrested.

"They weren't aware of what was going on," Little said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Court Bars 'Fight Club' Video of Mentally Disabled Students Forced to Fight

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas) -- Prosecutors who are trying a former state school worker for allegedly forcing mentally disabled students fight each other won't be allowed to show the jury an explicit cell phone video of defendant Timothy Dixon allegedly forcing the students to fight.

Numerous videos show confused residents of a state school for mentally disabled adults in Corpus Christi, Texas being forced to take part in a so-called fight club run by night shift workers. As previously reported by ABC News, the videos were discovered by police in March 2009 after someone found Timothy Dixon's cell phone and turned it in. Police said Dixon, now 32, could be heard on a video calling the play-by-play of the fight as if he were a ring announcer.

But the Texas Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision that the evidence could not be used at the trial of Dixon, the alleged ringleader of the Fight Club, because police did not have the right to search the phone after it had been turned in. On Wednesday, the court refused to hear prosecutors' appeal of its decision.

"I understand it's an unpopular decision but according to the law it is the right decision," said Dixon's attorney, Ira Miller.

Dixon will remain free on bail while the case goes back to the district court. Charged with causing injury to the mentally disabled, he has pled not guilty.

Five other former Corpus Christi State School employees were charged in the case. D 'Angelo Riley, 24, and Guadalupe De Larosa, 23, pleaded guilty to three counts of causing injury to mentally disabled residents and are serving a four-year prison sentence. Jesse Salazar, 23, was sentenced to three years in jail, while Vincent Johnson, 24, received a two-year suspended jail sentence. Stephanie Garza, 23, was also implicated in the case but was granted immunity by the State. Charges against her will be dismissed if she fulfills her obligation to testify against Dixon.

Despite Wednesday's decision, prosecutors remain optimistic they have enough evidence to convict Dixon without the video evidence.

"This decision doesn't kill the case," said Doug Mann, Assistant District Attorney. "I would prefer to have the cell phone video played to our jury, but the direct testimony of the people who were present can vividly convey to the jury what was going on there and the fact that Dixon was the driving force behind it."

Michelle Crayton, whose brother George Brazil was one of the victims in the video, said she was disappointed in the Court of Criminal Appeals ruling. "I was hoping the video could be shown at his trial," said Crayton. "But even without the video it's a strong case because so many people have already seen them and saw that he was involved."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio