News Americas

Sunday 15 September 2019

Woman who held four mentally ill adults captive for ten years is sentenced to life in prison

Linda Watson
Credit: Philadelphia Police
Linda Watson Credit: Philadelphia Police

Sarah-Jane Murphy

A woman who imprisoned four mentally ill adults in a dungeon has been sentenced to life in prison.

Linda Weston (55) from Philadelphia abused, starved and tortured the victims.

She was tried for sex trafficking, hate crimes, kidnapping, theft of government funds and murder in aid of racketeering and pleaded guilty to all 196 counts brought against her.

Weston and her accomplices carried out the abuse at homes in Philadelphia, Florida, Texas and Virgina over a ten-year-period.

She coerced them into moving into the homes and then imprisoned them in bedrooms, basements and attics.

Officials said she then became their representative payee with social security and began to receive their disability benefits and in some instances, their state benefits.

The captives were often sedated with drugs that Weston and other defendants placed in their food and drink.

Weston beat and burned her victims if they made an attempt to escape.

Two female victims died of starvation while they were being held captive.

The prisoners were freed in October 2011 when a landlord contacted police to report suspicious activity in a neighbouring building.

All of the victims gave evidence at Weston's trial either in person or by video link.

Her 23-year-old niece Beatrice Weston told the court she "walks around with stars."

"Everyday I just think about her beating me," she said.

Tamara Breeden (33) was starved and forced to drink her own urine for a decade.

"She was just crazy.

"I was sad and crying," she said.

District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe sentenced Watson to life in prison saying "her future years in federal prison will be paradise compared to the conditions she imposed on her victims."

The judge also ordered that Watson and the co-defendants repay $273,463 (€254,549) to the Social Security Administration.

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