CRUCIAL child-care decisions are not Vicky Weston's forte.
Back in August 2002, Weston agreed in Family Court that her daughter Beatrice, then 10, would be placed in the home of her sister, Linda Ann Weston.
Yes. That's the one. The alleged notorious ringleader of the horrific Tacony dungeon case. Federal authorities have accused Linda Ann Weston of imprisoning and abusing four mentally disabled adults in a grimy sub-basement in a scheme to collect their Social Security disability checks.
Beatrice allegedly endured years of torture under her aunt's care. In 2011, police rescued her from a Frankford home where she'd been locked in a closet. She had been burned and beaten so savagely that rescuers were amazed she'd survived.
One might think that Vicky Weston would have hesitated to let her sister baby-sit Beatrice for five minutes. She knew that in the 1980s, Linda Ann Weston had served time in prison for beating another sister's boyfriend with a broomstick and imprisoning him in a closet until he starved to death.
"But she came out of prison normal," Vicky told the Daily News yesterday. "Nothing bad. Normal . . . And that was years ago."
Yesterday, Vicky Weston, 54, found herself questioning her own judgment once again.
On Saturday night, she was frantically searching for little Tamira Horton, 5, who was in her charge. Tamira's mom, Lakisha Horton, 27, had asked her to watch Tamira and her 7-year-old brother, Weston said.
Weston had left Tamira - nicknamed Mama - in her apartment on 22nd Street near Somerset in the Swampoodle section of North Philadelphia with a friend she knew only as "Kendra" about 2:30 p.m. while she walked two blocks to get school supplies at a church, she said.
She had known Kendra about two years and she came over Saturday, saying she was tired. Weston said she asked her to watch Tamira and not take her anywhere.
Weston left, taking Tamira's brother and her 11-year-old grandson with her. They returned home about 4 p.m. to find Kendra and Tamira gone.
She said she scoured the neighborhood, yelling out their names. Nothing. She thought Kendra lived in Olney, but didn't know the address. Kendra didn't have a phone, but Weston said she called a number she had for Kendra's boyfriend. "He never answers the phone," Weston said.
She called the cell number for Tamira's mom, who she said lives "somewhere in North Philadelphia."
"Her phone was cut off," she said.
Weston called police, who launched a search for the little girl with braided hair wearing a pink shirt, light blue jeans with a flower on the pant leg and brown sandals.
"I try to be nice to people - and look what happens," Weston told the People Paper, sitting on a stoop outside her house and wearing a Palm Beach T-shirt and jeans, beads of sweat on her forehead.
"Everyone loves me because they say I'm a good baby-sitter. People say, "Now, Vicky, she's got a good heart.' "
Weston, a mother of five, collects $733 a month in Social Security disability "for depression or something like that," she said.
She said she doesn't know if her son Calvin, 24, is dead or alive. "They [the Department of Human Services] snatched him from me. I don't know where he's at."
She baby-sits lots of kids all the time and loves it, saying she enjoys helping moms and dads out. Most parents rarely pay her - "maybe $10 or $20 a week," she said. "People take advantage of me."
'I'm nothing like her'
Asked whether parents are hesitant for her to baby-sit because she's Linda Ann Weston's sister, she replied: "They don't care. They drop kids here. They know I ain't got nothing to do with what Linda did."
She said she hasn't seen her sister since her arrest. "I don't care nothing about her . . . She gotta pay for what she did. I didn't put people in a cellar. She's all about money. I'm nothing like her."
Weston said she's been watching children for years "and nothing happens."
So she was beside herself when Tamira was missing.
About noon yesterday, neighbors called police, saying they saw Tamira walking with a woman. A 39th District officer found the girl on 22nd Street walking with Kendra just before 1 p.m., Lt. Jeff Strunk said.
She appeared unharmed, but was on her way to the hospital to be checked out, he said.
Both Kendra and Tamira's mom were being questioned at Northwest Detectives.
Weston said Kendra told her that her "caseworker" came to her apartment and told her she had to go with her.
She took Tamira with her, so as not to leave her alone, Weston said.
"She should have called me," Weston said. "I was so worried.
"I had to pray to God that they would find 'Mama,' " she said. "I'm just glad she's safe. Lord, am I glad."
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