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Trial ordered in Philadelphia basement-captives case

By Sarah Hoye, CNN
updated 12:38 PM EST, Thu January 5, 2012
Eddie Wright, 49, was also arrested. All three are accused of stealing the victims' Social Securtiy checks.
Eddie Wright, 49, was also arrested. All three are accused of stealing the victims' Social Securtiy checks.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "This is a real-life horror movie," the judge says
  • One of the four suspects will not stand trial because he may have also been a victim
  • A niece of one suspect says she was locked in a closet beginning 10 years ago

Philadelphia (CNN) -- A Philadelphia judge ordered three suspects Tuesday to stand trial in the case of four disabled adults held captive in the sub-basement of an apartment building.

Judge Patrick Dugan dismissed charges against the fourth suspect, Eddie Wright, because Linda Weston, who police have described as the ringleader of an alleged fraud and abuse scheme, may have also victimized him.

"This is a real-life horror movie," Dugan said, adding that the victims' injuries were "a cross between victims who just came out of a concentration camp and an old beat-up boxer or wrestler."

Dugan ordered Weston, her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, and her daughter, Jean McIntosh, held for trial on charges of kidnapping, assault, conspiracy, false imprisonment and other related counts for allegedly holding four people in the dank sub-basement.

"Like anybody who has charges dismissed and who maintained their innocence would be relieved, I'm sure he is," said Louis D'Onofrio, Wright's defense attorney, adding that Wright could be released within a day.

Beatrice Weston, the 20-year-old niece of Linda Weston, testified Tuesday that beginning when she was age 10 she was imprisoned, beaten and starved by her aunt and cousin, McIntosh, who also forced her into prostitution.

Beatrice Weston said that McIntosh padlocked her in a closet inside an apartment that was in the same building where police found the adults locked the basement.

She was forced to huddle on the floor inside the closet beneath shelves, she said.

"I knew it was morning because light came through the window and the crack under the door, Beatrice testified Tuesday, pointing to an enlarged photo of the bathroom closet. She added that she had to relive herself in a cup and was allowed out once a day to empty the cup in the toilet or bathe.

"Sometimes I got food, I think once a day," she said.

She said that McIntosh taunted her, saying through the door, "Don't you wish that you was out of that closet taking a hot shower like me?"

Fifteen-year-old Benita Rodriguez, who was found by police shortly after the discovery of the four adults, also testified Tuesday. Rodriquez moved to Philadelphia in August after becoming the girlfriend of Thomas' son, Gregory Thomas Jr.

Rodriguez testified about living at McIntosh's apartment, having overheard McIntosh and Linda Weston discussing where to place the four adults, as well as witnessing Beatrice Weston being taken to the bathroom.

The four mentally disabled adults held captive -- Edwin Sanabria, Herbert Knowles, Tamara Breeden and Derwin McLemire -- were found in October locked in the sub-basement room with no food and only a bucket for a toilet.

The pitch-black, 13-by-7 foot space houses what police described as a former boiler used to heat the building. A penetrating stench of urine and feces still hung in the chamber days after the discovery. McLemire had been chained to the boiler, police said.

"I used the bucket to go to the bathroom. Others used the same bucket," Sanabria testified Monday. When asked where he took a bath, he said they "used the same bucket we used to urinate in."

Sanabria said he and the others were in the basement for 10 days. He said he traveled to Philadelphia with Weston from West Palm Beach, Florida.

"At least somebody's being charged. I want these people locked up. I just want justice to be served," Guillermo Burgos, Sanabria's brother, said of the judge's ruling. Burgos attended court Monday. "They took people who needed help and treated them like dogs."

The next court date is scheduled for January 10.

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