Monica Yant Kinney: Is Weston really that incompetent?

Linda Ann Weston
Linda Ann Weston

Despite psychiatric reports, the charges she faces say she dominated her victims, robbed them.

Posted: October 26, 2011

Before a scrum of reporters, attorney George Yacoubian Jr. stated the obvious: His client's mental state is a matter of debate.

Yacoubian represents Linda Ann Weston, the 51-year-old ex-con charged with kidnapping and torturing four malnourished intellectually disabled adults who were found locked and chained inside a Tacony cellar. The crime scene rivaled Gary Heidnik's House of Horrors.

After a status hearing Monday, Yacoubian expressed concern with Weston's inability to "have an intelligent conversation" and communicate with him about the case. So he seeks a hearing to assess her competency to stand trial.

"At this point, I do not believe she appreciates the seriousness of the charges," the lawyer said, "and she certainly doesn't appreciate the elements of the offenses."

That line stopped me cold.

Perhaps it's because I'd just read transcripts of Weston's 1984 murder trial for imprisoning and starving to death a mentally challenged man - an inexplicable crime for which she was lightly punished.

Or perhaps because of the complexity of the new charges, I'm struggling to understand how a woman described as so dim could allegedly lure and dominate her victims, then steal their disability checks.

Weston also stands accused of running a "breeding factory," forcing family and captives to have babies to further scam the welfare system. If that's not complicated enough, she allegedly moved the brood around the country to stay a step ahead of the law.

Weston may be mentally ill and inflicting the heinous abuse she suffered as a child, but does this sound like someone who is incompetent or mentally retarded? Read on about her last go-round with the head doctors. You be the judge.

Functions as a toddler?

On the final day of Weston's 1984 nonjury trial, her attorney entered into evidence stipulations from three psychiatrists who examined the troubled defendant.

The first report concerned Weston's "intellectual assessment."

On a standard verbal ability test, the transcript reflects, the 25-year-old Weston functioned at the age of a 2- to 3-year-old. Additional testing showed Weston reading, spelling, and doing math like a second or third grader.

Another evaluation was prepared by psychiatrist Gino Grosso.

"In essence," he wrote, "we are dealing here with a mentally ill young adult who is mentally retarded and suffering from some intrinsic brain disease, namely epilepsy."

Additionally, Grosso said Weston had schizophrenia.

I tried reaching all three doctors to gauge their memory of Weston and ask whether it's possible she snowed them, downplaying her mental abilities to seem more sympathetic. One has since retired, another did not return calls.

But I did track Grosso to Graterford Prison, where the psychiatrist has resided since June. The man the criminal courts once turned to for learned advice is serving three to 10 years for peddling prescription pills for cash.

Beating the system

Weston served just four years in prison for the murder of Bernardo Ramos. She violated requirements to seek therapy and take antipsychotic medication after release, yet she faced no penalty. She is listed as successfully completing parole.

After beating that system, the supposedly intellectually disabled murderer went to Family Court and regained custody of her children. In 2003 and 2004, Weston boldly returned to Family Court and won custody of a sister's daughter.

That child, Beatrice, is the 19-year-old waif who was allegedly so tortured and tormented in Weston's care that Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said it's "remarkable" she's alive.

Also astonishing? That this abuse of government systems and human life was supposedly committed by a woman with the mind of a toddler.

So, I ask Temple University's Frank Farley, former president of the American Psychology Association, is it possible the experts were wrong about Weston? Could someone with mental maladies and scant education outsmart so many?

"Can we fake bad? Yes," he says. "She may have slipped through the cracks of traditional intelligence screening. She looked like she couldn't function and ends up evading the law."

Based on what he's heard and read, Farley suspects Weston possesses "practical intelligence, street smarts, the ability to con and game the system" which can be difficult for experts to assess.

"Look at the type of crimes she's accused of - they're unusual, they bespeak creativity, seeing opportunities other people haven't seen," he adds. "I study crime and I've never thought of it."


Contact Monica Yant Kinney at 215-854-4670, myant@phillynews.com, or @myantkinney on Twitter. Read her blog at philly.com/blinq

 

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|