HOUSTON (Reuters) - The grandson of the owner of a home where four elderly men were found living in squalor after being reported as potential captives was arrested and charged with elder abuse, police said on Saturday.
Three of the men found at the home in north Houston on Friday were in stable condition on Saturday at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, where they were being treated for malnutrition, police said.
The fourth elderly man was taken to police headquarters for questioning by detectives, said police spokeswoman Jodi Silva.
All four told authorities they had been forced to turn over their government-issued checks, including those for veterans’ benefits, police said.
“Any statements made by the victims are being investigated thoroughly,” Silva said.
Police arrested Walter Jones, 31, whose grandmother owns the home, and charged him with injury to the elderly by act and injury to the elderly by omission.
Police discovered the men living in filth in a converted garage at the home after receiving a tip on Friday about potential captives being held there.
Three men, aged 80, 74 and one in his 50s, were living in the garage in a room with double locks on the door and a single chair, Houston police spokesman Kees Smith said. There was no toilet and no beds, police said.
No information was released about the age of the fourth man, who also was living in the room.
According to tax records, the 50-year-old home was just over 1,400 square feet (130 square meters). Police believed that nearly 10 people had been living there. The three-bedroom, 1.5-bath home has a converted garage painted bright purple, with bars on the door and windows and a linoleum floor.
“All four are telling the officers at the scene they were enticed to that location with promises of beer and cigarettes and not allowed to leave, and then forced to turn over checks such as veterans’ checks,” Smith said.
Police said the men provided conflicting accounts about how long they have been at the house. Some initially reported being there as long as 10 years but were changing their stories.
The discovery comes two months after three women were freed from a decade of imprisonment in a Cleveland, Ohio house where police say they were repeatedly raped and brutalized by their captor. In that case, a former school bus driver, Ariel Castro, has pleaded not guilty to 977 kidnap, rape and other charges.
In addition to the men, three females with disabilities, whose ages have not been released, were also found living in the main part of the house, but were not being held against their will, police said.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Vicki Allen