Men held captive
HOUSTON – Four men held captive in a Houston garage were living in "deplorable conditions" while being forced to hand over their monthly incomes, according to police.
The victims told officers they were held against their will in the converted garage and given only scraps to eat.
Three of the men, who appeared to be suffering from malnutrition, were taken to LBJ Hospital.
"I was in my yard when I seen them coming out in the ambulance and it didn’t look good at all," Carolyn Baker said. "Oh man, they look like they’re malnutritioned. Real poor. Oh Lord."
A resident called police Friday morning after seeing a man at the window rubbing his stomach as if he was hungry.
When officers arrived at the northwest Houston duplex in the 8600 block of White Castle, they were shocked. They described the living conditions as like a "dungeon."
The owner of the house is 83-year-old Essie Scranton.
There was no bathroom and a chair was the only piece of furniture. The garage had burglar bars and locked doors.
Police were told the men were lured to the home with the promise of food, alcohol and cigarettes. Investigators are looking into whether they were homeless before.
They were also allegedly forced to turn over their Social Security and Veteran’s benefits checks to their captor.
Steven Davis said he’d been inside the house for about six months.
Neighbors were heartbroken to learn what they men had been through.
"Oh my God, it just touched my heart," Alberta Ewing said. "I mean, I just feel for them. I don’t know, it just really got me hurt."
She said that one of them had approached her asking for help just weeks earlier while she was cooking outside, but that she didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t crying and she couldn’t get him to explain further.
"He said, ‘Could you help me?"’ Ewing recalled. "I said, ‘What’s the problem?"
Neighbors said they occasionally saw the men sitting outside. Virginia Rogers, who lives five houses away, said she greeted them with a wave when she drove by.
"I’m shocked," Rogers said. "I’m baffled. I didn’t have a clue."
Police are questioning the man who allegedly held the victims captive. So far, no charges have been filed.
He apparently did not live in the house.
Four women live in the other side of the duplex, three of whom appeared to have mental disabilities, police said. The fourth was a caretaker. Unlike the garage, the living conditions inside their home were relatively normal.
Harris County Adult Protective Services is also looking into this case. The agency will be checking into the mental capacities of the men held captive and the official residents, including the homeowner.
Authorities also indicate the man who had been cashing the victims’ government checks has another home elsewhere. HPD will be checking into that address as well.