The most horrifying case in recent memory is unfolding in Philadelphia at this moment. At this point, no one except Linda Ann Weston knows the extent of the terror she inflicted on defenseless people. No one knows how many people; no one knows for how long she and her three accomplices did it.
Just a few weeks ago, police entered Weston’s house, located a low door that led to a sub-basement and opened it. No light came from the small, windowless room with a dirt floor, but when they shined a flashlight, human beings started moving in the darkness. These were the mentally impaired adults Weston had kidnapped and locked away from the eyes of the world. They were injured, malnourished. They had only a bottle of water and one of orange juice for nutrition. One man was chained to a radiator. Sanitary facilities consisted of buckets on the floor. News media have uniformly dubbed the scene a “dungeon.”
Weston’s apparent motive was to collect their checks from the Social Security Administration that her captives received due to their disabilities.
But that was only part of the reason that, over possibly as long as 30 years, Linda Ann Weston gained control over children and the mentally disabled. The other was torture. What else can explain the fact that she starved her subjects, beat them, burned them with hot implements? After all, if your interest is strictly monetary, you don’t kill the people whose checks you’re receiving. On the contrary, you want them to survive for as long as possible.
But Linda Ann Weston is a sadist and she did kill at least one man. Back in the early 1980s, she was charged and convicted of murder when she starved a man to death in circumstances eerily reminiscent of those police found in her home in October. She served four years in prison for her crime.
It’ll be a while before we know the extent of Weston’s wrongdoing. That’s because she seems to have led an itinerant life, probably running from the law, all the while terrorizing and brutalizing some of society’s most vulnerable people. But Weston is now 51 and her own family reports she’s been doing this for years – to them. Somehow, Weston has terrorized her own family with impunity. This article tells a little about that (ABC News,10/20/11)
According to her younger brothers and sisters, Weston would force them to have sex with each other.
“She would force my younger brothers and sisters to have sex. She would have sex with my other brothers and sisters,” a brother told ABC News affiliate WPVI. “She said, ‘Look, make them have babies, we can get more money.’ It could be a brother or sister in her care.”
Refusal meant the risk of violent retaliation by Weston.
Family members told WPVI that it was the first time they had all been together in over 20 years after breaking free from the control of their sister.
“By calling her evil is speaking nice of her,” the brother said.
The family says they did not go to police because they were in fear of their sister.
“We were beyond terrified. We knew what she was capable of doing, so we never challenged any of it,” a brother said.
Weston’s interest in forced sex to produce children and therefore income from SSI wasn’t confined to her own siblings. Apparently she also forced the mentally impaired adults in her dungeon to do the same.
[Police] are also investigating whether Weston forced the mentally handicapped victims in the basement to have sex with one another, which produced two children, ages 2 and 5. Police said the 2-year-old was so malnourished it had the appearance of a 6-month-old.
Why do I bring up Linda Weston and her house of horrors? The main reason is that, despite her conviction for murder, she was able to get custody of a niece, Beatrice Weston, when she was eight years old.
On Tuesday, police found another family member of Weston’s who showed signs of torture and beatings. Beatrice Weston, 19, the niece of Linda Weston, was taken at the age of 8 and tortured for 10 years, according to police.
The girl was found locked in a closet on the third floor of the building that contained the basement dungeon, away from the other victims and children. She was pulled from the closet with her head wrapped in clothing, covering open wounds and scars. On the rest of her body, scars covered her face, a burn mark from a heated spoon was imprinted onto her skin, fractured bones had healed over incorrectly, and her ankles showed signs of repeated shooting from pellet guns, police said.
As this article shows, Weston and her sister Vicky had gone to family court several times in 2003 and 2004, and convinced a judge to grant partial custody to Linda (Philadelphia Inquirer, 10/23/11). She then disappeared with the girl for years so that Vicky, Beatrice’s mother, had no knowledge of her whereabouts.
Legal experts say anyone seeking child custody is supposed to undergo a background check by the Department of Human Services, including a criminal-background check. DHS presents that information to Family Court judges.
“They must not have looked at her record,” [Vicky] said. “All they had to do was look it up on the computer and she would not have gotten the child.”
Of course they’re also supposed to do an assessment of the home environment the parent provides. I guess they didn’t do that either.
How many people has Linda Ann Weston killed? How many has she committed the most unspeakable tortures against? No one knows. We’ll probably never know the extent of her brutality. But what we do know is that one innocent child, Beatrice Weston, could have been saved from 10 years of horror and pain if the Department of Human Services had done the minimum – run a single standard search of a database. They didn’t and, in the not too distant future, the taxpayers of Pennsylvania will pay Beatrice Weston a lot of money because of it.
As I said, that’s the main reason for my posting a piece about Linda Ann Weston. File it under “CPS Screws Up Again.”
The other reason is to attempt to refute the pervasive idea that women don’t commit violence in general and domestic violence in particular. I well know that, even though hundreds of scientific studies show women to be as likely as men to commit domestic violence, studies rarely change minds. But science coupled with true stories can do the trick.
So I want people to pay attention to the Linda Ann Weston case. I want people to understand that men have no monopoly on depravity. I want them to learn that, despite our persistent mythmaking of the “sugar and spice and everything nice” variety, men and women should be judged by the same standards because they’re equally capable of behavior that horrifies.
Last, dozens of articles have already been written about Linda Ann Weston. Even though many of her victims were her blood relatives, so far, not one article has called her crimes “domestic violence.” So I did.