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Son 'shocked' parents accused of holding captives, calls it a 'misunderstanding'

From Sarah Hoye, CNN
updated 7:25 PM EDT, Mon October 24, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The son of 2 accused says that "everything seemed normal"
  • NEW: Admitting he feels "out of the loop," he describes both his parents as "caring"
  • NEW: Mentally disabled adults were part of the family and not locked up, he says
  • The three original suspects did not appear at a hearing in court Monday

Philadelphia (CNN) -- The son of two of four people charged with imprisoning four mentally disabled adults in the basement boiler room of a Philadelphia apartment building called his parents "loving and caring" on Monday, adding he is "shocked" by their arrest.

Three of the suspects -- Linda Ann Weston, 51; Gregory Thomas, 47, and Eddie Wright, 49 -- had status hearings Monday, but none were in court. Afterward, Weston's attorney George S. Yacoubian Jr. said their next court date, a preliminary hearing, is set for December 19.

They face several charges including criminal conspiracy, aggravated assault, kidnapping, criminal trespass, unlawful restraint and false imprisonment after the landlord of the apartment building found the four people locked in the 15-foot-by-6-foot room with no food and only a bucket for a toilet, police said. Weston is the accused ringleader of the group, according to police.

A fourth suspect -- Jean McIntosh, Weston's daughter -- faces similar counts, but was charged a few days after the first three. A hearing in McIntosh's case is scheduled for Wednesday, according to court records.

Gregory Thomas Jr., who several months ago moved back to Philadelphia from Florida, son of Weston and Thomas, conceded to CNN on Monday that he "felt a little out of the loop."

That said, the 18-year-old aspiring boxer insisted the case against his parents was "a real big misunderstanding."

"I don't think they're guilty," the younger Thomas said. "I just hope they get the facts straight, before they make a decision in court."

Police have said the suspects may have been holding seven other people, including Weston's 19-year-old niece and six children. Police believe two of the children, ages 2 and 5, may belong to Tamara Breeden, one of the four adults rescued from the sub-basement.

Gregory Thomas Jr. said that he considered some of the mentally disabled adults living with his parents as "family," adding that he believed they were fed and not locked in their rooms. He claimed, for example, that he had gone to the movies with one of the mentally disabled men, and said his mother would give them Christmas presents and treat them to holiday dinners.

"Everything seemed normal," the younger Thomas said. "No one had to ask for anything."

Weston, according to her son, "tried to do a lot to help -- sometimes, I think, she did too much, that she cannot handle." He also said he felt she "had the wrong people around," but called it "shocking" that she and his father were arrested.

"I never saw anybody arrested like that, it was crazy," said Thomas Jr., who witnessed them being taken into custody.

Yacoubian, Weston's lawyer, said he met with his client recently. "Overall, she's fatigued," he said. "She appears to be in relatively good spirits, and that's all I'm going to say."

He plans to meet with her again this week, and said the next step is for him to decide if a competency hearing for Weston is warranted.

Asked about a defense, Yacoubian said, "It's way too early to discuss. We all know that the allegations here are serious. ... I'm not privy to anything in the way of evidence at this point. All I have is a one-paragraph summary of what the allegations are."

The elder Thomas' attorney, Perry deMarco Jr., said he interviewed his client for several hours and that he appeared to understand the questions and provide answers. "I'm not a doctor, but I don't see competency being an issue," he said.

Authorities are looking into whether the suspects stole Social Security checks from the alleged victims.

Police were told nearly eight years ago about a possible kidnapping involving Weston, according to an attorney for Breeden's family.

Lawyer Steven Wigrizer told CNN that Breeden's mother contacted police in 2003 after she was told her missing daughter and Breeden's boyfriend, Edwin Sanabria, may have been kidnapped by Weston.

Philadelphia police did not respond when contacted Sunday by CNN about Wigrizer's statements.

Weston served prison time in the 1980s for killing her sister's boyfriend by locking him in a closet and refusing to feed him. Court documents show Bernardo Ramos, 25, was fed only four times while locked in the closet over the two-month period. He died in 1981, at which point he weighed less than 75 pounds. His body was found in an abandoned building after it was wheeled there in a baby carriage, according to the documents.

Weston was paroled in 1987 after serving four years in prison, according to Leo Dunn of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. As part of the release, the parole board wrote that Weston was required to receive psychiatric treatment, he said.

Later that year, records show Weston violated a condition of her probation, although Dunn wasn't sure of the specifics. She was sent back to prison, then paroled once more with a "highly structured plan for psychiatric care," Dunn said.

But in 1988, she stopped reporting to a parole officer. Her case was put in "absconder" status, and she was later declared "delinquent."

In 1993, 10 years after her initial conviction, the board canceled the delinquency when Weston reached her maximum sentence date, per its policy.

"Sometimes (parole violators) get out there and go underground, and as long as they behave themselves and don't do anything that comes to the attention of authorities, we have a hard time finding them," Dunn said.

-- CNN's Ross Levitt and Susan Candiotti contributed to this report.

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