Federal authorities have charged Linda Weston, her daughter and three co-defendants in a horrific kidnapping case involving mentally challenged victims who were held prisoner in the basement of a Philadelphia residence.
Weston and the co-defendants were charged on Wednesday in a 196-count indictment that included murder, racketeering, hate crimes, sex trafficking, kidnapping, forced human labor, theft, fraud and related offenses. Federal authorities allege that the defendants specifically targeted mentally disabled victims in a scheme to steal their government payments while keeping them prisoner in deplorable subhuman conditions. Federal investigators also allege that Weston and the other defendants not only deprived their victims of food and medical care, but periodically moved them between Texas, Virginia, Philadelphia and Florida for several years.
Charged in the case are Weston, her daughter, Jean McIntosh, Gregory Thomas, Eddie Wright and Nicklaus Woodard. The defendants allegedly used threats, intimidation, isolation and violence to control the deprived and abused victims from 2001 to October 2011. If convicted of all charges, each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Weston could face the death penalty.
“The physically and mentally disabled are among the most vulnerable in our society. They deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, not violence,” said U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger. “Linda Weston and the others, in fact, decided to prey on these victims specifically because of their physical and mental challenges — and they did so through violence, fear and intimidation for the purpose of stealing social security payments that were meant for the victims’ long-term care. ‘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. Hopefully, today’s announcement of a 196-count indictment will help begin the process of restoring the victims’ faith in humanity.”
Slasher Suspect Charged
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has charged a man in connection with an incident in which a young woman’s face was slashed with a knife before she was robbed.
Cory Harley, 30, has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, robbery, theft, receiving stolen property and related offenses for attacking Ashley Hackett, 23, in November 2012.
Hackett was walking toward her home in the 700 block of South 9th Street in the early morning hours on November 11. Surveillance footage showed her being followed by a white male dressed in a white hoodie. The injury was severe and investigators said the knife stopped just an inch from her throat.