Man locked in cellar: I never saw my gov't checks


Linda Weston

A mentally disabled man says he didn't see his government benefit checks for 10 years after he began living with a woman who is now charged in a widespread fraud and abuse scheme.

Thirty-one-year-old Edwin Sanabria also testified Monday that he was once kept in a closet that was nailed shut by Linda Weston.

Sanabria testified at Weston's preliminary hearing. He is one of four mentally disabled adults who were discovered locked in a squalid basement in Philadelphia in October.

Weston is accused of kidnapping and abusing the victims to get their benefit money. Prosecutors suspect the 51-year-old paroled killer had perhaps dozens of adult and child victims.

Sanabria says Weston took him to a government office in 2001 to sign paperwork. He says he never again saw his $674 monthly checks.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Four mentally disabled adults had deep gashes, wounds and scars all over their bodies when they were rescued from a locked room in a Philadelphia basement, according to photographs of the victims shown in court Monday.

Spectators gasped when the grim pictures were displayed at the preliminary hearing of 51-year-old Linda Weston, a paroled killer charged with kidnapping and abusing the rail-thin victims to get their government benefit checks. Her daughter, boyfriend and friend also have been charged in the case.

Prosecutors accused Weston of running the benefit-fraud scheme in several states from 2002 until her October arrest, which came after a landlord stumbled on the captives in a fetid basement room. One man, Herbert Knowles, was found chained to a boiler.

Police Officer John Murphy testified Monday about finding the victims and leading them out after the landlord cut Knowles' chain.

"The stench in the room and on their person was unbearable," Murphy said. Asked to describe it, he said, "Basically, death."

The photos, shown by prosecutors to try to bolster their case that Weston should be ordered to stand trial, catalogued numerous injuries among the four.

Tamara Breeden's ear was badly damaged. She had dozens of welts, bruises and lacerations on her scalp, which led her to wear a wig. She had similar injuries on her legs, arms and back. She also was extremely thin, with her hip bone protruding.

Derwin McLemire had several open, infected wounds on his legs. Knowles had a lump on his forehead. Edwin Sanabria had scars on his back and chest.

Guillermo Burgos, a brother of Sanabria, told The Associated Press that the defendants treated the adults like animals and nearly killed them. He saw Edwin last week and said relatives are always offering to feed him.

"He's doing good. Eating ... He's much happier," said Burgos, 33, of Willow Grove.

Prosecutors suspect Weston had perhaps dozens of adult and child victims, including her 19-year-old niece. Weston had more than 50 Social Security cards, power of attorney documents and similar forms when she was arrested, authorities said.

Also Monday, prosecutors added many new charges to the case. New counts against Weston include promoting prostitution and custody interference.