A Philadelphia woman pleaded guilty on Wednesday to holding disabled adults and their children captive for roughly a decade in order to steal their disability benefits. To avoid a possible death sentence, she confessed to committing all 196 counts charged against her, including murder, kidnapping, sex trafficking, hate crimes, and fraud. She has agreed to serve a life sentence plus 80 years in prison.
Between 2001 and October 2011, Linda Weston and her co-conspirators stole over $200,000 in Social Security benefits from disabled people. After luring mentally handicapped individuals into locations rented by Weston, Jean McIntosh, Eddie Wright and others in multiple states, Weston and her partners locked their victims inside basements, attics, and closets while keeping them chained to the floor. They fed the disabled adults Ramen noodles and beans laced with sedatives, and when food ran short, Weston forced them to eat their own waste.
Victims who talked back or attempted to escape endured brutal beatings. Weston admitted that she and her co-conspirators punished their victims by punching, kicking, stabbing, and burning them. She also confessed to hitting them with bats, hammers, and the butt of a pistol.
In April 2005, Weston kidnapped Donna Spadea and held her captive in the basement of a home in Philadelphia. Fed a substandard diet and not allowed to use the bathroom, Spadea was found dead on June 26, 2005. Weston had ordered the other victims to move Spadea’s body to a different location before calling police.
Confined to a kitchen cabinet and an attic for several months, Maxine Lee received multiple beatings after begging Weston for food and attempting to escape. When Lee died of bacterial meningitis and starvation in November 2008, Weston ordered the other victims to move Lee’s body to a bedroom and stage the scene before calling police.
On October 15, 2011, Philadelphia police officers discovered 10 emaciated victims covered in filth and chained to the sub-basement of an apartment building. Suffering from malnutrition, the victims included six disabled adults and four children. One of the children was identified as Weston’s 17-year-old niece, who was reported missing in 2009 and had been forced into prostitution.
“She appears to be severely malnourished and looks like she’s probably been beaten over a large portion of her life,” Capt. Jack McGinnis stated after her rescue.
At the time of Weston’s arrest, police found at least 50 identification cards and documents on her. After Weston’s daughter, Jean McIntosh, and co-defendant Eddie Wright pled guilty, Weston entered a guilty plea on Wednesday to 196 counts, including racketeering conspiracy, kidnapping resulting in the death of the victim, forced human labor, involuntary servitude, multiple counts of murder in aid of racketeering, hate crime, violent crime in aid of racketeering, sex trafficking, kidnapping, theft of government funds, wire fraud, mail fraud, use of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime, and making false statements.
Co-defendants Gregory Thomas Sr. and Nicklaus Woodard have pled not guilty and are awaiting trial.
Weston was convicted of murder in 1984 for killing her sister’s boyfriend. After locking him in a closet, Weston refused to feed him for two months. She was released after serving eight years in prison.