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Tacony dungeon victim testifies

Tamara Breeden told a Common Pleas jury in a civil trial that Linda Ann Weston beat and starved her for 10 years.

Tamara Breeden, one of four mentally disabled persons locked in the squalid basement of a Philadelphia building. (Credit: KYW-TV (CBS3) / Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)
Tamara Breeden, one of four mentally disabled persons locked in the squalid basement of a Philadelphia building. (Credit: KYW-TV (CBS3) / Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)Read more

Update: The jury this afternoon awarded $45 million in compensatory and punitive damages to Tamara Breeden against Linda Ann Weston and two other defendants after deliberating for about an hour and 20 minutes.

TESTIFYING yesterday for the first time in public, Tamara Breeden - one of four mentally disabled victims rescued from a Tacony sub-basement in 2011 - told a jury that alleged kidnapper Linda Ann Weston beat her, snatched away her babies, starved her and forced her to drink her urine for more than 10 years.

"She beat me with a metal bat," said Breeden, 33. "She knocked my teeth out with a hammer."

Breeden, now looking healthy and attractive, was testifying in a Common Pleas civil trial in a lawsuit filed on her behalf last year.

A default judgment was entered against the defendants - Weston, 55; Gregory Thomas Sr., 51; and Eddie Wright, 53 - because they failed to respond to the lawsuit. "By default, they are liable under the civil system," Breeden's attorney, Steven Wigrizer, said before the trial.

The purpose of the trial is for the jury to determine what compensation Breeden should be given for what she endured.

In his opening statement, Wigrizer said Breeden "was the victim of a cruel and twisted and sick woman" who kept people captive and stole their Social Security disability benefits.

In 2001, Breeden, 19 and pregnant, and her then-boyfriend, Edwin Sanabria, ended up living with Weston in Philly after being introduced to her by Weston's sister, Vicky, the attorney said.

"As she walked down the steps" to her basement room, Breeden had no idea that she was entering "a living hell," Wigrizer said. Days later, Weston locked the couple in the room, the attorney said.

Over the years, Weston found other victims and accomplices to guard the victims, he said.

To not get caught, Weston moved around, bringing Breeden and others to Texas, Florida, Virginia and back to Philadelphia, Wigrizer told jurors.

Breeden was starved and told that "she could drink from the same bucket where she urinated and defecated," he said. One day she was given another choice - to drink from the toilet, he said.

During the 10 years, Breeden was brutally beaten, Wigrizer said. She was shot with a BB gun; the "metal pellets are stuck in her flesh," he said. Thomas and Wright raped her, and Weston prostituted her, he said.

When Breeden and three other victims were rescued from the sub-basement of a Tacony apartment building in October 2011, she looked like a concentration-camp survivor, Wigrizer said.

Breeden testified in simple sentences yesterday.

Asked if she and Sanabria were allowed to use the bathroom, she said, "No, we had to use a bucket."

Asked how often she was beaten by Weston in Texas, Breeden replied: "She just beat me every day with a metal bat."

Asked how she felt after Weston gave her first son away, Breeden said: "I was kind of sad, crying." Breeden also gave birth to a girl and boy during her time with Weston, but Weston and her daughter allegedly took the children as their own.

The defendants, in federal custody facing criminal charges in a trial expected next year, were not in court yesterday after they had waived their right to be present. They do not have attorneys in this civil trial.