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Suspect charged with holding men in Houston 'dungeon'

5:38 PM, Jul 20, 2013   |    comments
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(USA Today) -- A suspect has been charged after four malnourished, homeless men were found being held against their will in a Houston "dungeon."

Walter Renard Jones, 31, is charged with two counts of injury to the elderly. Police say Jones was arrested at the scene Friday and jailed without bond Saturday pending a court appearance next week.

Records showed Jones had previous charges beginning in 2002 for theft, marijuana possession and failing to register as a sex offender.

The four homeless men were found Friday in "deplorable conditions" and may have been being held so a captor could cash checks the men were receiving, according to police.

KTRK-TV quoted police as saying at least one of the four - ages 79, 74, about 65 and 54 - had been held against his will for 10 years.

The men told police they had been lured to the home with promise of cigarettes and food, said Jodi Silva, a Houston Police Department spokeswoman.

They were kept in a garage and were fed scraps. They had no access to a bathroom, and there was only one chair in the room, the Beaumont Enterprise reported. They were taken to Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital.

A neighbor called authorities expressing concern about men in the house in north Houston, said Sgt. Steven Murdock, who described the living conditions as like a "dungeon."

Murdock said at least one of the men is a military veteran. He said all four were homeless and may have been held so a captor could collect their checks, though it wasn't clear whether the men were targeted for their Social Security payments or some other kind of assistance.

The men were malnourished and "almost invalids," Murdock said. Three were taken to a hospital for treatment.

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."

The men were found in a working-class, residential neighborhood of one-story, brick homes. Harris County property records show the home was built in 1969 and is about 1,400 square feet.

Authorities were investigating whether four women found in the house were also being held against their will. Three had mental disabilities, and police described them as "witnesses," Houston's KPRC-TV reported.

Larry Davis, 52, told the Beaumont Enterprise that he lives in the neighborhood a few streets away.

"It's sad," Davis said. "You never know what's going on around you."

Contributing: Associated Press; Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

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