On Thursday, Linda Weston, a 55-year-old who held six mentally-disabled adults and four children captive in her basement (and other confined spaces), was sentenced to life in prison plus 80 years for 196 federal counts, including murder, kidnapping, and sex trafficking.

The Associated Press reports:

Authorities accused Weston of using “cunning, trickery, force and coercion” to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years.

They said Weston, her daughter and three others confined the victims like “zoo animals,” often in the dark, in basements, attics and closets at various times between 2001 and 2011.

The victims were often drugged and withheld food and medicine—if food ran low, they were forced to eat their own and others’ waste. If they tried to escape, steal food, or protest their treatment, they would be brutally beaten.

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In October 2011, a landlord discovered four victims chained in Weston’s apartment’s basement. When the police arrived, they begged not to be rescued for fear of punishment. More victims were recovered in the following days.

Weston is reportedly medicated for depression and schizophrenia and had a childhood of physical and sexual abuse. She also told the judge that she had trouble reading and writing due to her fourth-grade education.

Upon sentencing, Weston reportedly said, “I believe in God and God knows what happened,” to which U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe replied:

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“There are a lot of people in this courtroom who know what happened too.”


Contact the author at joanna@jezebel.com.

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The dank sub-basement room in Philadelphia where four weak and malnourished mentally disabled adults, one chained to the boiler, were found locked inside. Image via AP.