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Shackled Women Freed From Basement : Held at Least Month; Human Arms, Legs Also Found in House

March 25, 1987|United Press International

PHILADELPHIA — Police raided a row house today and freed three malnourished women who had been shackled in the basement for at least a month and discovered severed human arms and legs.

Gary Heidnik, 43, a resident of the North Philadelphia row house, was arrested on rape and kidnaping charges, a spokesman for the district attorney's office said.

Police were tipped off when a fourth woman, who was in a car with Heidnik, escaped from the vehicle and flagged down a patrol car. Dominic DelPapa, a spokesman for the district attorney, said the woman in the car had also been held captive.

"She had shackle marks on her wrists and ankles," he said. "She was dehydrated, semi-starved and had been sexually assaulted."

The city medical examiner's office was called to the scene to investigate after authorities also discovered severed human arms and legs at the house.

Cpl. Eugene Withers of the Sex Crimes Unit said the women, ranging in age from 18 to 24, had been shackled for at least a month in the basement of the two-story house.

In a telephone interview with WCAU-TV, one of the victims, Lisa Thomas, 19, said she was chained to a pipe in the basement and lost 40 to 50 pounds.

"He put us down in the cellar," Thomas said. "He said he wasn't going to kill us. He said, 'Trust me, trust me.' He beat us half to death. He dug screwdrivers in our ears for us not to hear him.

"Sandy died," Thomas said, apparently referring to another captive. "He was feeding her bread and water. I think he murdered her, to tell you the truth. He was digging holes in the ceiling to hold us up for punishment."

Withers said holes had been drilled in the floor of the basement where the chains were attached. "That's where they slept," he said, referring to the floor.

Episcopal Hospital spokesman Anthony Cirillo said three of the four were admitted for malnutrition and dehydration. He said the women appeared thin but were alert and talking to officials.

Cirillo said a 24-year-old woman was discharged and taken to police headquarters to give a statement.

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