Houston man charged in case of 4 held in garage

July 20, 2013

A Houston man was charged Saturday in connection with the discovery of four malnourished men being held against their will in dungeon-like conditions in a north Houston home.

Walter Renard Jones, 31, faces two counts of injury to the elderly. He is being held without bond in the Harris County Jail and set to appear in court Monday, authorities said. Court records did not list an attorney for Jones.

Police said Friday that the men said they were forced to live in the garage — which had one chair, no bed and a possibly malfunctioning air conditioner — so their captor could cash their public assistance checks.

“We’re still in the beginning in the investigation,” Houston Police Department spokeswoman Jodi Silva said. “We still need to determine things like where the money was going.”

Property records show the purple-trimmed house is owned by Essie Mae Scranton, 83. Attempts to reach Scranton were unsuccessful. The Houston Chronicle reported that since December 2008, the house has been registered to a nonprofit corporation called Regina’s Faith Ministries, directed by Regina Jones, 57, also known as Regina Nelson.

Silva said Saturday that Walter Jones is Regina Jones’s grandson.

Police said the men were living in “deplorable conditions” after being lured by promises of food and cigarettes. Three of them — ages 80, 74 and 65 — were 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. Authorities said he would be cared for at a veterans hospital. He told reporters Friday that he was living in the house, not the garage, and sleeping on the floor.

Sgt. Steve Murdock said in a police statement that the men said Jones “used force and coercion to keep them there for the purpose of monetary gain.” Investigators were 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.

A neighbor called police Friday morning expressing concern about men in the house.

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