Federal prosecutors have agreed to accept a guilty plea to 196 felony counts in exchange for sparing the life of a woman charged with unspeakable acts of cruelty against mentally disabled minors and adults.

Linda Weston, 55, was charged with kidnapping, sex trafficking, murder, racketeering conspiracy, fraud and hate crimes over a period of ten years in a scheme to obtain the disability checks of six adults and four minors.

The plea bargain has spared her the death penalty and she will spend life in prison.

Her daughter and three other adults participated to varying extents in the mistreatment of the victims and are awaiting trial.

Weston kept the victims in homes in Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida, holding them captive in basements, attics and closets.

The scheme came to light in October 2011 when the owner of a home rented by Weston found a man chained to the boiler in the basement. Three other adults were found in the filthy room.

Prosecutors said the woman had kidnapped and held the victims – drugged, underfed and deprived of medical care – from 2001 before they were discovered. The victims were denied basic necessities like access to a toilet or bath.

Evidence showed that the victims were punished physically if they tried to escape or complained about their treatment.

The prosecutors were prepared to show the court that Watson and the others under her direction would slap, punch and hit them with belts, sticks, hammers and even bats. The victims were also kicked, stabbed and burned for the “crime” of asking for food, water or medicine.

Watson forced two of the female victims into prostitution to earn money for her.

She collected more than $200,000 from the social security benefits of the victims by “using cunning, trickery, force and coercion” to designate her as their caretaker.

At the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Cynthia Rufe heard testimony from two of the victims who survived; two others died as a result of the abuse.

Judge Rufe was unmoved when Watson offered an apology for the decade of abuse by saying, “I believe in God and God knows what happened.”

“There are a lot of people in this courtroom who know what happened too,” said the judge as she passed down the life sentence.



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