Sometimes the more you know, the more you don’t want to know. Such is the case with the sordid tale of a convicted murderer who allegedly held four mentally challenged adults captive in a dank hole in a basement so she could collect their Social Security checks.
Authorities have since also charged Linda Ann Weston, 51, with imprisoning and beating a 19-year-old niece whom she had custody of since the girl was about 9. Beatrice Weston had so many scars on her body that Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said, “It makes you want to cry when you see her.”
As sad as the stories are about Weston’s alleged misdeeds, even more details need to be known to ensure that whatever mistakes were made in putting not only her niece, but a number of other minors, in Weston’s protective custody won’t happen again.
Chief Family Court Judge Kevin Dougherty granted custody of Beatrice to Weston in 2002. But a spokesman said Dougherty acted on the advice of the city Department of Human Services, and that he had no recollection of being told Weston had served time for third-degree murder.
Weston was paroled in 1987 after serving four years for the death of her sister’s boyfriend, who was found starved to death in a locked closet. Did the DHS and the courts let that detail slip by in doing a background check of Weston? Did they do a check?
Mayor Nutter has promised investigations into how the DHS or any other city agency involved handled the Weston case, including the Police Department, which reportedly was called to Weston’s home in March 2009 after a relative reported that Beatrice looked beaten and malnourished.
While a judicial review of Dougherty’s actions appears unwarranted, the courts, too, might want to look into how the Weston custody decision was made to determine whether there are flaws in the process that can be corrected to prevent other children from ending up in the wrong hands.
Dougherty certainly thought his actions were serious enough to use a spokesman to publicly discuss court proceedings that are typically kept under wraps. The DHS, conversely, has maintained its long-held stance against discussing the cases of minors under its supervision, even victims of the most heinous crimes.
Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates, says it is possible all the right steps were taken in granting custody of Beatrice to Weston back in 2002. He said a criminal record doesn’t necessarily prohibit a person from obtaining custody of a child.
It depends on how pertinent the crime is to being given the authority to raise that child.
That seems reasonable. But where was the evidence that a person who thought so little of human life that she could starve a man to death was stable enough to be given custody of a child? That’s what the public wants to know.