8 Held in Houston ‘Prison Room’

Posted at 5:17 PM, Jul 19, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-19 18:29:03-04

(CNN) — Texas authorities freed four men Friday who they said appeared to have been held captive in a north Houston home — some in a garage-turned-prison — where the men were forced to turn over their disability and veterans checks

One man has been detained in connection with the investigation, which was triggered after police received a tip, Houston Police spokeswoman Jodi Silva told reporters.

Investigators also are looking into whether four women found at the home were captives, she said. Authorities are still trying to determine the ages and identities of the women, who police characterized as suffering from mental illness.

Three of the four men, who were between the ages of 50 and 80, were found in the garage and were severely malnourished, Silva said. They were taken to an area hospital for treatment, while a fourth man, who was found inside the house, was taken to the police station to make a statement, she said.

Authorities have not released the identity of the man investigators detained nor did they detail the allegations against him.

At least some of the men being held were believed to be homeless.

“What the men initially told us was they were lured there with the promise of cigarettes and food,” Silva said.

But once they got inside the tan brick house with purple trim on Whitecastle Lane, they were not allowed to leave, she said.

“They were apparently given scraps to eat. Very little food was being provided to them,” Silva said.

The four men told the officers that they had been held at the house over varying lengths of time.

“Whether it goes into years or not is unknown,” Silva said.

Police were investigating whether the men had been forced to sign over their disability, Social Security and veterans’ checks.

Police were tipped to a potential problem on Friday morning when someone called 911 to report that three or four people were being held against their will at the home.

Officers broke down a nailed-shut front door to get into the house on Friday morning, CNN affiliate KTRK said. Police said they saw trash strewn everywhere and found what they called a “prison room” with no beds, no chairs and no bathroom, the affiliate said.

Authorities found the women inside the house, not in the converted garage, Silva said.