Eddie Wright may have been partly to blame for the “House of Horrors” after all.
That’s what a Philadelphia judge decided on Thursday after hearing new evidence in a case involving the alleged kidnapping and imprisonment of five mentally challenged adults in a Tacony apartment building.
Wright, 51, whom authorities have described as homeless, was one of four people arrested by police in October in connection with the alleged scheme to steal the victims’ Social Security benefits. Following a preliminary hearing in December, Municipal Court Judge Patrick Dugan ordered three of the defendants to stand trial but dismissed all charges against Wright.
During that hearing, at least one of the disabled victims testified that the accused mastermind of the conspiracy, Linda Ann Weston, had subjected Wright to much the same treatment as the victims. Weston controlled Wright’s movement and made him sleep alongside the victims on the floor in a dark, damp, cold and filthy apartment-building basement, according to testimony.
But the district attorney’s office immediately re-arrested and charged Wright, effectively appealing Dugan’s decision to Common Pleas Court.
Assistant District Attorney Erin O’Brien last Thursday submitted new evidence to the court, including documents that suggest Wright was an active participant in the benefit-stealing scheme. Judge Paula Patrick ruled that the evidence was sufficient to warrant a trial.
Wright’s case likely will be reunited with those of the other three defendants including the 51-year-old Weston; her longtime boyfriend Gregory Thomas, 47; and Weston’s daughter Jean McIntosh, 32.
Authorities initially said that Weston and Thomas lived most recently in a North Philadelphia house, but court testimony indicated that they never really stayed in one place for too long. The couple apparently stayed in Florida, Texas and Virginia, along with multiple Philly addresses, all within the last decade. They allegedly took their captives wherever they went.
Meanwhile, McIntosh lived in a second-floor apartment on the 4700 block of Longshore Ave. in the same building where police on Oct. 15 found four of the captives. Days later, detectives found a fifth victim in a Frankford house and reported that she had been confined in a closet in McIntosh’s apartment unit.
A trial date has not been set.
O’Brien told the court at last week’s hearing that Wright and Weston had jointly bought the van that the defendants used to transport four of the victims from Florida to Philadelphia in early October.
Further, O’Brien said, Wright had applied to collect Social Security disability benefits on behalf of one of the victims and one of Weston’s children. On the application forms, he allegedly identified himself as their friend, pastor, teacher and counselor.
Also, Wright allegedly sent $400 to Weston via wire transfer in September, about a month before the group embarked on their drive from Florida to Philadelphia.
Wright’s defense attorney, Louis F. D’Onofrio, questioned the validity of his client’s alleged signatures on the would-be incriminating documents. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or at firstname.lastname@example.org