Grandparents seek custody of Pa. captive's 2 kids

October 24, 2011 - 4:15 PM

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The parents of a mentally disabled woman held captive in a squalid basement as part of what police believe was a Social Security fraud scheme are seeking custody of her two young children, their attorney said Friday.

Wilbert and Peggy Wanamaker are the parents of 29-year-old Tamara Breeden, among four people freed from the locked basement of a home in the city's Tacony section last weekend.

Four people have been arrested in the case, in which investigators believe the suspects locked people up and cashed their Social Security checks. Eight children and four young adults linked to the defendants are now in protective custody.

Attorney Steven Wigrizer, who represents the Wanamakers, said they plan to seek temporary custody of two of the children, believed to be ages 2 and 7, who they say are Breeden's.

A court would need to make a decision on custody, said Alicia Taylor, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Human Services. DNA tests are being conducted to determine the children's identities, she said.

Breeden's parents are fairly certain two of the young children belong to their daughter, who is in social services placement, Wigrizer said. They plan to petition for temporary custody, he said.

"Our understanding is that these are her kids," he said. "Unless something shocking comes to light, we believe that that will be the end result of DNA testings."

The suspects may have been taking in the downtrodden and disabled for their Social Security checks, then holding them captive in wretched conditions without enough to eat or drink, police say. The four adult victims have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds.

The woman accused of being the ringleader, Linda Ann Weston, 51, was charged Monday with kidnapping, false imprisonment and other offenses after her landlord stumbled on the weak and malnourished victims in a dank, foul-smelling boiler room Saturday. Also charged are Weston's daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32; Gregory Thomas, 47, whom Weston described as her boyfriend, and Eddie "the Reverend Ed" Wright, 50.

A lawyer for Weston has not returned repeated telephone calls seeking comment, and it could not be determined if the others had attorneys. Court appearances are scheduled for next week.