TELLING THE HOLE STORY: Alleged Weston victim testifies

Posted: December 20, 2011

AFTER arriving in Philadelphia crammed with five other people in the rear luggage area of a Ford Expedition, Edwin Sanabria told a packed courtroom yesterday, he was led down to a sub-basement and ordered to sleep in "the little hole."

"At first, I didn't want to," said Sanabria, 31. "Linda made me."

Sanabria, who stands about 5 feet 2 and is slightly built, had sauntered into the courtroom with a multicolored hooded sweatshirt, a black Polo shirt, jeans and black boots. On the street, one might have mistaken him for a young hipster or rap artist.

But during three hours of testimony, he described - mostly lucidly, but sometimes becoming confused by questions - a 10-year period during which he moved with Linda Ann Weston and others from Philly to Texas, then to Virginia, then back to Philly, back to Texas, and then, he thought, to Florida - before finally returning to Philly in October.

Most recently - for 10 days in a tiny, sub-basement boiler room in an apartment building on Longshore Avenue, in Tacony - he, Tamara Breeden, Herbert Knowles and Drwin (that's the correct spelling, authorities said) McLemire were locked in, he said, and had to urinate and defecate in the same bucket.

Another man, Eddie Wright, also stayed there, Sanabria said.

"Were you able to get out?" Assistant District Attorney Erin O'Brien asked.

"Only to take a bath," Sanabria responded.

"Where?"

"Outside the hole," with Wright watching from the "top of the steps sometimes."

With what did he bathe?

"The same gray bucket that we used to urinate," Sanabria said, adding that Wright would first empty it.

As Sanabria described his ordeal in a sometimes-muffled voice, Weston, 52, sat emotionless in an orange prison jumpsuit.

Weston had shuffled into court appearing gaunt, her eyes sunken, her braided hair tied back tightly. She was calm and quiet. Throughout Sanabria's testimony, she looked down and at times closed her eyes.

Weston was one of four defendants in a preliminary hearing that began yesterday on charges of kidnapping, conspiracy, assault and related offenses in connection with Sanabria and the three others, found Oct. 15 in the dark, locked sub-basement boiler room by landlord Turgut Gozleveli, who also testified yesterday.

Also charged are Weston's boyfriend, Gregory Thomas, 48; her daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32; and Wright, 50.

Weston, McIntosh and Wright also face the same charges in relation to a fifth victim - Weston's niece, Beatrice Weston, 19.

Authorities have described the basement victims as mentally disabled or slow.

Police Officer John Murphy, of the 15th District, headquartered at Harbison Avenue and Levick Street in Mayfair, was one of the first cops to arrive at the Tacony building after Gozleveli called 9-1-1. Murphy testified before Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan that the four basement victims were "very malnourished."

One of the men wore a crew-neck T-shirt that hung from his shoulder, and "you could see his bones," Murphy said. "He was skin and bones."

Sanabria was the only victim who testified yesterday. Others are expected to testify today.

He said that he met Weston in 2001 in Philadelphia after Breeden introduced them. He and Breeden began living with Weston.

He already was getting a Social Security disability-benefits check of $674 a month, and Weston took him to a Social Security office, where he signed papers giving her control of the money, he said.

He described how he, Breeden and a woman named Maxine then moved with Weston, Thomas, Weston's kids and Beatrice, to a house in Killeen, Texas.

At one point in Texas, he said, he was locked in an attic with Breeden and Maxine. And at another point, a woman named Dee lived with them.

In Virginia, he and Breeden were locked in an attic, he said.

He said that he has fathered three children with Breeden, two of whom were taken by Weston and McIntosh after birth. He said that he didn't know what happened to the third child.

During cross-examination, one of Weston's attorneys, George Yacoubian, asked whether Weston had ever forced Sanabria to move from place to place with her, or to go to a Social Security office.

"No," Sanabria testified.

In West Palm Beach, Fla., their last location before arriving in Philly in October, Sanabria said, one of the three buildings in which he lived was "a little mansion."

"Where did you stay?" O'Brien asked.

"I was in a closet," which Weston at times locked "with some nails."

In Florida, Sanabria said, he saw Weston beat Beatrice and Breeden with bats and a chain, and she made Wright whip Beatrice on her naked buttocks with an extension cord.

During testimony by Philadelphia Crime Scene Unit Officer John Taggart, photos were shown of wounds sustained by the five victims.

They included pus-filled sores. McLemire's left ear was partly ripped off.

Breeden and Beatrice, who both wore wigs, suffered from "cauliflower ear" and had marks, bruising and gashes on their backs, Taggart said.

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