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Alleged captive testifies at hearing for Weston

During more than 10 years of living with accused kidnapper Linda Ann Weston, Edwin Sanabria never yelled for help or tried to escape.

Edwin Sanabria (center), 31, testified that he never yelled for help or tried to escape from Linda Ann Weston.
Edwin Sanabria (center), 31, testified that he never yelled for help or tried to escape from Linda Ann Weston.Read more

During more than 10 years of living with accused kidnapper Linda Ann Weston, Edwin Sanabria never yelled for help or tried to escape.

Testifying during a preliminary hearing Monday in the kidnapping, assault, and fraud case against Weston, Sanabria, 31, described years of being imprisoned in rooms or small spaces, sleeping on floors, often going without food, and witnessing the repeated beatings of Weston's other alleged victims.

Sanabria, one of four mentally challenged adults who were found in a Tacony subbasement in October, told of fathering several children with one of Weston's other alleged victims, only to have them taken away. At times, he said, Weston and her accomplices forced him and his fellow captives to fight each other and even directed him to strike Tamara Breeden, the mother of those children.

"I never did want to," Sanabria said haltingly during the hearing before Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan. "Linda made me."

In a case that has drawn international attention, Weston and her three codefendants are accused of imprisoning four adults while stealing their Social Security checks and moving them around the country to avoid detection. Police have alleged that Weston targeted vulnerable adults, gained their trust, and kidnapped them.

Police have described Weston, 51, as the ringleader of the scheme, and also have charged her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 49; her daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32; and Eddie Wright, 50, a Texas street preacher.

Weston, a convicted murderer who starved to death her sister's boyfriend, 25, in a closet 30 years ago, was arrested Oct. 15 after police discovered the adults in a basement. The four face charges of kidnapping and conspiracy, and on Monday, prosecutors added charges of assault, stalking, neglect, and theft by deception.

Weston, McIntosh, and Wright face additional charges of abusing Beatrice Weston, a niece Linda Ann Weston allegedly kidnapped from Philadelphia several years ago. Police are also investigating Weston's involvement with two women who died while in her care in 2005 and 2008.

Testimony in the hearing is scheduled to continue Tuesday, at which time Dugan will decide whether to hold the group for trial.

In court, prosecutors displayed photographs of the gruesome injuries police found on Breeden, Beatrice Weston, Sanabria, and the two other men in the basement. All were severely malnourished, police said, and their legs and arms appeared twiglike.

One of the men, Drwin McLemire, had pus-filled sores, and part of his ear had been torn off. Herbert Knowles had cuts on the side of his head and a lump on his forehead. Breeden's head was covered with old scars and gashes, as was Beatrice Weston's.

After a landlord came across the group, he called 911. One of the first police officers on the scene testified that the basement smelled "like death."

"The stench in that room and on their bodies was unbearable," Officer John Murphy said Monday.

Sanabria, who testified for about three hours, said he met Weston in 2001 when Breeden, his girlfriend, introduced them. At the time, he was looking for a place to stay, and right away, he moved in with Weston. Soon afterward, Weston took him to the Social Security office and had him sign paperwork so that his $674 monthly checks would go to her.

Sanabria believed Weston would be managing his money, he said, but he never saw his checks after that. Occasionally, he said, Weston would give him $10 or $20.

That year he moved to Killeen, Texas, with Weston, Breeden, Thomas, and Beatrice Weston. Linda Weston's children always moved with them, Sanabria said. In Texas, he testified, he accompanied Weston and Breeden to another Social Security office to sign additional paperwork.

They moved so many times, Sanabria said, that he had trouble remembering where he was sometimes. But all of them, he said, traveled together.

"Everyone traveled as a family," said Weston's attorney, George S. Yacoubian Jr. "Did you consider Linda and the others your family?"

"Right," Sanabria said.

Breeden eventually became pregnant, but when the baby girl was born, Weston told Sanabria that she had died, he said. Sanabria would later learn that Weston was raising the child as her own. Years later, Breeden gave birth to a second child, a son, in a bathtub. McIntosh took that child away, Sanabria said.

He testified that Breeden gave birth to a third child, but that he never saw the baby after it was born.

In early October, the group was in Florida and packing for a move to Philadelphia. It started with two cars, Sanabria said, but one broke down on the way, and he ended up piling into the trunk area of a Ford Expedition along with Breeden, McLemire, Knowles, Beatrice Weston, and Wright.

They stopped several times along the way, but Sanabria never got out of the car, he said. When Yacoubian asked why he never got out, Sanabria responded, "I don't know."

When they arrived in Philadelphia, Weston brought them to McIntosh's apartment. Beatrice Weston was put into a closet, Sanabria said, while the others were taken to the basement, along with a small dog.

Wright slept in the 13-by-7-foot boiler room with them at night and fed them once or twice a day, Sanabria said. They used a bucket for a bathroom, and Weston removed the lightbulbs so that it was dark at all times.

In describing the state of the victims, Murphy said, "We didn't know what we were dealing with at first. They looked like they hadn't seen light in a while. They were squinting. We just knew something was wrong."

He described them as extremely thin and appearing malnourished. One of the victims was wearing a T-shirt that was "barely hanging on to his body."

The victims seemed disoriented and frightened, Murphy said. Initially, Sanabria was the only one who would talk to police.

"He spoke softly," Murphy said. "He wouldn't really look at me, would only look at me for a split-second. He was very scared."

Once the adults were taken to a hospital for treatment, though, they began to relax, said Officer John Taggart of the Crime Scene Unit.

"They seemed relieved, actually, to be somewhere where they were being cared for."