Inquirer Editorial: Predators look for easy prey

Posted: October 19, 2011

God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

- Ecclesiastes 7:29

Not often, but too often, a story is reported that is a jolting reminder of the depths of depravity human beings are capable of reaching.

Such a story is that of a woman and two codefendants alleged to have imprisoned four mentally challenged adults in a fetid hole within a basement so they could steal their victims' monthly Social Security disability checks.

It's bad enough to witness the everyday greed of the unscrupulous who take advantage of the unsuspecting. It is especially heinous when the victims are children or others who haven't developed the capacity to tell the difference between someone they can truly trust and a predator.

Charged with kidnapping and other crimes is Linda Ann Weston, 51, who served eight years in prison for the 1981 slaying of a man who starved to death in her North Philadelphia apartment. Initially judged to be mentally incompetent, Weston was convicted in 1984 of third-degree murder.

Also charged are Weston's boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 47, of North Philadelphia, and Eddie Wright, 49, described as homeless. The three men and a woman who had been held captive, ages 29 to 40, were being treated and monitored at area facilities.

What happened to the victims is also a reminder that, as great as this nation is, it still hasn't figured out the best way to serve those among the mentally disabled who may appear capable of functioning on their own but are targets without someone to look out for them at all times.

Kathy Sykes, the city's director of intellectual disability services, said several thousand people are on a waiting list to get into a program that helps pay for residential and other services for the mentally impaired. Those thousands apparently have someone who cares enough to help them get help. Thousands more are vulnerable prey.

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