Tamara Breeden, who was held in what has been described as a "basement of horrors" in Philadelphia, is sharing her story seven years after she was rescued

By Harriet Sokmensuer
November 16, 2018 12:59 PM

A Pennsylvania woman who was held captive for 10 years in what has reportedly been described as a “basement of horrors” is sharing her story seven years after she was rescued.

“I thought I was going to die there,” Tamara Breeden told local TV station WCAU in an interview this week of her time imprisoned in the basement of a Philadelphia home where she and several other developmentally disabled adults were kept.

The group was eventually saved in 2011 and their captor, Linda Weston, along with three co-conspirators were sent to prison.

Breeden, now 36, told WCAU that in addition to being physically abused and kept in torturous conditions — without light, a bed or a bathroom — she and the others were forced to urinate in a bucket, wear clothes pulled from the trash and denied showers.

When authorities discovered the group in the basement, one man was chained to the furnace.

Weston, the ring leader, and the others lured their victims into captivity in order to fraudulently live off of the victims’ disability and state benefits, according to federal prosecutors. Those who were targeted were disabled and estranged from relatives, then convinced to move in with Weston.

“If you were a man, she would be your girlfriend,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Faithe Taylor told WCAU. “If you needed a mother, she would be your mother.”

Prosecutors have said that, once under Weston’s control, the victims were “confined … to locked rooms, basements, closets, attics, and apartments,” where they were kept isolated and in the dark, drugged by food and drink and punished with physical violence for their efforts to get food or to escape.

In total, five people were charged — four of whom have pleaded guilty.

“[Weston] lied every month to the Social Security Administration as to what she was using the money for,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Barrett told WCAU.

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Speaking with the station, Breeden described her captor’s transformation.

“She was nice before, but then she turned on me,” she said of Weston. “She kept on whooping me with bats and sticks.”

For more than a decade, Wright and the others moved their victims from state to state, including Virginia and Texas, eventually ending up in Philadelphia, federal prosecutors have said. At least two of the captives died. Their crimes were exposed in October 2011 when a landlord called police.

According to WCAU, authorities believe there were at least a dozen victims, with the possibility that some of them gave birth to children who have never been found.

“It is hard to fathom this kind of disregard for the dignity of human life,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain said in a previous statement, calling Weston and her co-conspirators “pure evil.”

One victim was forced to stay inside a kitchen cabinet and an attic for months. She had injuries from previous beatings that were never treated and died of starvation and bacterial meningitis while in confinement.

Two of Weston’s female victims were forced into prostitution, according to the Department of Justice.

“I kept on praying to Jesus, hoping to get back home,” Breeden told WCAU.

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Prosecutors have described the case as a series of hate crimes because Weston and her co-conspirators went after developmentally disabled adults. In the end, the group stole more than $225,000.

Weston pleaded guilty in 2015 and was sentenced to life in prison plus 80 years. Three others in the case also pleaded guilty to their involvement, court records show. A fifth suspect pleaded not guilty and his case remains pending. It has been sealed for unclear reasons.

One of the suspects who pleaded has since said he will appeal while Weston told WCAU from behind bars that she did not commit every crime to which she admitted.

Breeden’s nightmares from her ordeal have ended, WCAU reports. She is in school and caring for her children, who were born while she was captive.

“I feel nice,” she said. “I feel happy.”