• WEATHER ALERT Severe Thunderstorm Warning

Man charged in connection with four 'prisoners' held against their will in Houston home appears in court

July 20, 2013 8:35:00 PM PDT
A 31-year-old man appeared in court Saturday on charges connected to the discovery of four malnourished men being held against their will in a north Houston home.

Houston police say Walter Renard Jones has been running a makeshift prison, holding four men against their will and taking their money.

"They were just being stored in there; just kind of warehoused," HPD Sgt. J.W. McCoy said.

Police describe him as a bold captor -- a man who held four elderly men against their will. But while facing a judge Saturday night, Jones didn't want his face shown.

He is charged with two counts of injury to the elderly causing serious bodily injury. He was being held without bond in the Harris County Jail, and police said it's possible additional charges will be filed as the investigation continues. There may even be more victims.

"Different people in and out; probably, I would say, over 20 different people over the years," neighbor Monica Booker said.

Police said the victims, who are between the ages of 50 and 80, were forced to live in a coverted garage -- which had one chair, no bed and a possibly malfunctioning air conditioner -- so their captor could cash their public assistance checks.

Three of the victims -- ages 80, 74 and 65 -- were so sick and malnourished that they had to be wheeled out in stretchers and taken to a hospital Friday; they were listed in stable condition. A fourth man, 54, who told officers he was a military veteran, declined treatment but authorities said he would be cared for at a Veterans Administration hospital.

"One of them seemed to think he was picked up off the street, kind of recruited to come and stay here," McCoy said. "In exchange for beer and cigarettes and a place to stay, he had to turn over his social security check."

Police said the men were living in "deplorable conditions." The doors and windows were reportedly locked shut, and the men didn't even have a restroom.

Officials said one of the victims, who we're told was older than 65, told investigators Jones beat him with his own walking cane and cut off one of his fingers. That victim was described as "skeletal" with his bones sticking out when he was found.

Homicide Sgt. Steve Murdock said Saturday in a department statement that the men said Jones "used force and coercion to keep them there for the purpose of monetary gain."

Investigators were still trying to determine how long the men lived there.

Four women were also found living in the house, three of whom appeared to have mental disabilities, police said. Their living conditions were described as more normal.

Jones doesn't live at the home. But we spoke to his grandmother, who does live there. Jones reportedly kept her and others out of the garage.

"I can't tell you what he did. I don't know nothing. I don't know nothing, but I'm trying to keep myself safe and be a Christian woman," she said. ""I don't know what my grandson was doing with whatever he had out there because I don't go out there. I stay up in here."

Jones' bond was set Saturday night at $200,000 for each of the two charges.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Find Pooja on Facebook at PoojaLodhia-Reporter or on Twitter at @impoojalodhia

Take ABC13 with you!
Download our free apps for iPhone, iPad and Android devices


Load Comments