Ex-suspect in dungeon case is back on the hook

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 wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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