Men held captive in north Houston home for years
HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Four men found living in "deplorable conditions" in a Houston garage told police that they were being held captive after being lured by promises of alcohol and cigarettes so that their captor could cash their public-assistance checks, authorities said.
After a day of questioning, Houston police brought one resident home to stay, while another was brought back just for his belongings. With a couple of bags and boxes of medicine, police took him elsewhere.
Around 8am Friday, a neighbor called 911, fearing there some was something suspicious going on in the home. Police say when they arrived they discovered four men living in some sort of converted garage without beds or even a restroom.
One by one, the alleged captives were taken away on stretchers. They're sick, malnourished and confused. Police say they were being held in the home against their will -- possibly for years.
"The doors were nailed shut, barred shut with small nails," said HPD Sgt. JW McCoy. "One of them said they had been held there for up to 10 years. One of them said he'd been there a few years, and the other one didn't know how long he'd been there."
Houston police say four men, ages 79, 74, 65, and 54, were forced to live in a converted garage in a north Houston neighborhood. Their alleged captor is in police custody.
"One of them seemed to think he was picked up off the street, kind of recruited to stay here," Sgt. McCoy said. "In exchange for beer and cigarettes and a place to stay he had to turn over his Social Security check to them."
Three of the alleged victims were taken to the hospital. The fourth, Vietnam War veteran Steven Davis, refused medical treatment.
"I lived inside the house, not in that room," Davis told Eyewitness News.
He added that he didn't have a bed, but slept on the floor.
"The person had power of attorney. I don't know how that happened," Sgt. McCoy said. "He was able to actually withdraw money from his veteran's check. He would get $2,400 a month and the suspect would give him $60 a month. He's supposedly a Vietnam veteran."
"You would see them cutting the yard, you would see them outside but we didn't know where they came from," said neighbor Monica Booker. "We did think it was odd but they've been doing it for quite a while. You know, you see people, then you don't see nobody, then you might see one person."
Police tell us four women also lived in the duplex. They aren't certain of the women's mental capabilities, and whether they were aware of what was going on. One person was taken into custody, but police have not yet said what charges he may face.
Police haven't released much detail publicly about the victims. One of the men will be cared for at the VA Hospital. The other three men, who were unable to walk out of the home, were taken to LBJ Hospital for treatment.
The extent of any physical injury or mental illness is still unclear for now. Police say they may have been malnourished because they were extremely thin.
Adult protective services will also take part in this investigation. Advocates who work specifically with homeless men say the first step in the victims' recovery processes will need to come from them.
Bob Dickson with Open Door Mission said, "They are obviously going to need some specialized help in order to recover, which will include the physical, spiritual, and the addiction -- if they are addicted, not all of them are. But if they have that problem, that has to be fixed first because otherwise you're not going to fix anything else."
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