PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for December 19th for four defendants charged with holding mentally challenged adults captive in a Tacony basement to steal their Social Security checks.

But the attorney for one defendant, the central figure in the case,  says he has concerns about her mental health.

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The preliminary hearing will be the first courtroom test of the prosecution’s evidence against defendants Linda Weston, Gregory Thomas, Eddie Wright  and Jean McIntosh, who allegedly held and abused the four adults, who were found malnourished in the locked basement of the home.

After the hearing, defense attorney George Yacoubian said it’s too early to comment on the defense strategy in the case, and at this point he quesions whether Weston is competent to proceed.

“She appeared very lethargic when I spoke with her (in prison),” Yacoubian told KYW Newsradio this morning.  “I spoke to her for approximately 45 minutes about the case. We discussed the gravity of the offenses.”

But Yacoubian says he plans to talk with her again soon to decide if he should request a competency examination.

Weston, 51, Thomas, 47, and Wright, 50, are charged with kidnapping, assault, false imprisonment, and other counts.

The suspects, all of whom are in custody, did not appear in court. A fourth person, Weston’s daughter, Jean McIntosh, 32, is also charged and has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

The victims, who authorities say have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds, were discovered by a landlord in an apartment building on October 15th.  They were malnourished and one was chained to a boiler, according to police.

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Eight children and four young adults linked to the defendants were taken into protective custody.

Weston, Thomas, and Wright had recently moved into the building in the city’s Tacony section with Weston’s daughter, McIntosh.

Investigators are working to discover the extent of the alleged scheme after finding more than 50 Social Security cards, power of attorney documents, and other such forms in McIntosh’s apartment.

Defense attorney Perry de Marco Jr. also has talked with his client, Gregory Thomas.

“At this point I have interviewed him for several hours,” de Marco said after today’s hearing. “He was able to understand the questions and provide answers.  I am not a doctor, but at this point I do not see competency being an issue.”

“He was extremely worried,” de Marco added.

Louis D’Onofrio, an attorney for Wright, did not immediately respond to a telephone message after the hearing.

Reported by Tony Hanson, KYW Newsradio 1060

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