Northeast Times

Murder charges filed against 'mom' in Tacony dungeon case

Linda Ann We­st­on, 53, was charged with two counts of murder and nu­mer­ous hate crimes in con­nec­tion with what pro­sec­utors said was a dec­ades-long scheme to steal So­cial Se­cur­ity be­ne­fits from men­tally dis­abled people.

Fed­er­al pro­sec­utors have charged the pur­por­ted “mom” of the Ta­cony “House of Hor­rors” with two counts of murder and nu­mer­ous hate crimes as part of a 150-page grand jury in­dict­ment re­leased on Wed­nes­day.

The 196-count in­dict­ment fur­ther ac­cuses Linda Ann We­st­on, 53, and four oth­ers with rack­et­eer­ing, sex traf­fick­ing, kid­nap­ping, forced hu­man labor, theft, fraud and oth­er of­fenses in con­nec­tion with a dec­ade-long scheme to steal the So­cial Se­cur­ity be­ne­fits of six men­tally dis­abled adults and four chil­dren.

“‘Shock­ing’ does not be­gin to de­scribe the crim­in­al al­leg­a­tions in this case where the vic­tims were tied up and con­fined like zoo an­im­als and treated like prop­erty akin to slaves,” said U.S. At­tor­ney Zane Dav­id Memeger.

The de­fend­ants were charged un­der the Mat­thew Shep­ard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act, which crim­in­al­izes vi­ol­ence mo­tiv­ated by a per­son’s dis­ab­il­ity, race, sexu­al ori­ent­a­tion, and oth­er as­pects of iden­tity.

Phil­adelphia po­lice un­covered the al­leged con­spir­acy when they found four men­tally dis­abled adults locked in­side the dun­geon-like util­ity base­ment of a Ta­cony apart­ment build­ing on Oct. 15, 2011. The build­ing is on the 4700 block of Tor­res­dale Ave.

The vic­tims were mal­nour­ished and showed signs of phys­ic­al ab­use. Later, in­vest­ig­at­ors found a fifth vic­tim, iden­ti­fied as We­st­on’s teen­age niece, who had been im­prisoned in­side a closet of one of the apart­ment units.

The grand jury in­dict­ment states that We­st­on and her “fam­ily” began tar­get­ing dis­abled people at least as early as 2001. The de­fend­ants lured vic­tims with prom­ises of a place to live and ro­mantic re­la­tion­ships, then con­vinced vic­tims to sur­render their gov­ern­ment be­ne­fits and sub­jug­ated them to ab­use.

We­st­on al­legedly en­cour­aged vic­tims to have sexu­al re­la­tions with one an­oth­er and pros­ti­tuted fe­male vic­tims in an ef­fort to grow the “fam­ily” and col­lect more be­ne­fits.

We­st­on and her co­horts al­legedly op­er­ated the scheme in Phil­adelphia, Flor­ida, Vir­gin­ia and Texas, trav­el­ing from place to place with vic­tims to avoid de­tec­tion by au­thor­it­ies. The grand jury iden­ti­fied 10 vic­tims in all, two of whom died al­legedly as a res­ult of We­st­on’s use of “ab­us­ive con­trol and con­fine­ment tech­niques.”

One death oc­curred at a home on 2211 Glen­view Ave. in Phil­adelphia in 2005 and a second oc­curred in Vir­gin­ia in 2008. We­st­on al­legedly ob­scured the true cir­cum­stances of both deaths be­fore con­tact­ing loc­al au­thor­it­ies, who did not charge her crim­in­ally with either death.

The al­leged captors also in­cluded We­st­on’s daugh­ter Jean McIn­tosh, We­st­on’s boy­friend Gregory Thomas Sr., a self-de­scribed street preach­er named Ed­die “Pas­tor” Wright and a West Palm Beach, Fla., man named Nick­laus R. Wood­ard.

McIn­tosh, 33; Thomas, 49; and Wright, 52, were all await­ing tri­al loc­ally for kid­nap­ping, as­sault, theft and oth­er of­fenses re­lated to the five Ta­cony vic­tims. Au­thor­it­ies ar­res­ted Wood­ard, 26, in Flor­ida on Wed­nes­day. The Phil­adelphia Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice an­nounced late Wed­nes­day that it planned to with­draw the loc­al charges against the de­fend­ants.  

If con­victed on all counts, We­st­on could face the death pen­alty, while the oth­er four de­fend­ants could face life in pris­on. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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