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Charges refiled against street preacher in dungeon case

The District Attorney's Office refiled charges Thursday against a man a judge dismissed as a defendant in the alleged kidnapping and abuse case involving the inprisonment of four mentally challenged adults in a Tacony basement.

Eddie Ray Wright, 50, is charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping, unlawful restraint, reckless endangerment, false imprisonment, terroristic threats and stalking. A hearing is set for Jan. 20.

Wright remains in custody, said his lawyer, Lou D'Onofrio, who said he plans to ask the court to dismiss the charges again.

After a preliminary hearing this week, Linda Ann Weston, 51, was ordered held for trial along with her boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 48, and her daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32. The three were charged with kidnapping, conspiracy, assault, theft by deception and related charges.

Weston is accused of masterminding a scheme to confine four mentally challenged adults to a dank, foul basement while collecting their government checks. She also is charged with starving and abusing them. Weston's niece, 20-year-old Beatrice Weston, also has been named as a victim of kidnapping and abuse at the hands of Weston, Wright and McIntosh.

Wright is a street preacher from Texas who police have said helped Weston carry out the scheme. But Tuesday, Common Pleas Court Judge Patrick Dugan dismissed charges against him, citing testimony that suggested he may have been another victim of Weston.

Witnesses testified that Wright slept in the same basement where the four victims were discovered Oct. 15 and that Weston collected his Social Security benefits.

Assistant District Attorney Erin O'Brien argued that Wright acted as a bodyguard and jailer on Weston's behalf, sometimes abusing the captives when she demanded it.

Weston is a convicted murderer who starved to death her sister's 25-year-old boyfriend in a closet 30 years ago. After serving about four years in prison, authorities believe she began targeting vulnerable people, coercing them to sign over their government checks to her and moving them around the country to escape detection.