The Tacony basement where Linda Ann Weston allegedly imprisoned four mentally disabled adults smelled "like death," one of the first police officers on the scene Oct. 15 testified on Monday.
"The stench in that room and on their bodies was unbearable," Officer John Murphy said during a preliminary hearing in the kidnapping, conspiracy, assault and fraud case against Weston, her daughter, boyfriend and a fourth man.
The four are accused of abusing intellectually disabled adults in at least four states over several years.
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 very thin, and appearing malnourished. One of the victims was wearing a T-shirt was "barely hanging on to his body."
He said the victims looked "very scared - they didn't know what was going on."
Edwin Sanabria, one of the alleged victims, was the only one who would talk initially, Murphy said. Sanabria is expected to take the stand this afternoon.
Weston and her three codefendants are accused of imprisoning four mentally disabled while stealing their Social Security checks.
Weston, a convicted murderer who starved a man to death in a closet 30 years ago, was arrested Oct. 15 after police discovered four adults locked in a boiler room of a Tacony basement. Also charged in the alleged kidnapping scheme are Weston's boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 48; her daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32; and Eddie Wright, 50, a Texas street preacher.
They face charges of kidnapping, conspiracy, and prosecutors on Monday added additional assault, stalking, neglect of a dependent person, and theft-by-deception charges.
Weston, McIntosh, and Wright face additional charges of abusing a niece Weston allegedly kidnapped from Philadelphia several years ago. Prosecutors on Monday offered horrific photographs of open sores and multiple scars on the niece and the four others found in the basement.
Weston, who lived in the Tacony building, is accused of being the ringleader of the kidnapping and false imprisonment operation.
The hearing is proceeding before Judge Patrick F. Dugan of the Court of Common Pleas.
Police have alleged Weston targeted vulnerable adults, gained their trust and kidnapped them. She is accused of moving them from state to state for years while stealing their government benefits.
Police are also investigating Weston's involvement with two women who died while in her care in 2005 and 2008.
Weston was convicted of murder in the 1981 starvation of her sister's 25-year-old boyfriend, Bernardo Ramos, who Weston locked in a closet for two months until he died.
Weston's mental competency was a major point of contention in the years before she was tried in Ramos's death. Over a period of about two years she was evaluated multiple times until shortly before her trial. She was ultimately convicted of third-degree murder and served about four years in prison.
Weston's attorney, George Yacoubian, Jr., also has raised the issue of Weston's mental capabilities. She was found competent in a court-ordered evaluation, but Yacoubian has said that she is mentally retarded, somewhat out of touch with reality and that she does not know how to spell basic words like cat.