Bioethics News

Disability and dungeons in Philadelphia

Linda Watson   

Here’s another reminder – if you needed one — that caring for people with disabilities requires constant vigilance. Especially if they have no family ties, too often they are invisible to the government systems which are meant to protect them.

This sordid story comes from Philadelphia. Linda Weston was sentenced this week to life imprisonment for murder in aid of racketeering, kidnapping, sex trafficking and involuntary servitude. She and her associates imprisoned several disabled persons in dungeons in basements, attics and closets so that they could collect their disability cheques. The people were kept in the dark, starved, beaten and prostituted. Their food was laced with sedatives to keep them quiet. When food ran low, they had to eat human waste. Two of the victims died. This went on for ten years before some of the victims were discovered in 2011.

“Her future years in federal prison will be paradise compared to the conditions she imposed on her victims,” the sentencing judge said.

Amongst the many disturbing aspect of this story is that Linda Weston had served already served time for a similar crime. In 1981 Weston was sentenced to eight years in prison for starving a man to death after he refused to support Weston’s sister’s unborn child.

 Philadelphia was not the only city where her small gang operated. There were also dungeons in Killeen, Texas, Norfolk, Virginia, and West Palm Beach, Florida.

The group targeted mentally challenged individuals who were estranged from their families. Once they moved in, Weston became their representative payee with Social Security and began to receive their disability benefits and in some instances, their state benefits. 

Children and disabled adults are always at risk.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.