NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - October 17 was the day a Norfolk family had longed to have for many years.
Herbert Knowles went missing three years ago. "One day he didn't come home and it was unlike him," Tiffany Davis, Knowles' niece, said. "He would come here everyday to eat. He would talk to my grandmother and if he didn't come he always called."
On Monday, his family found out where he had been all those years, but the details about his disappearance were horrifying. Knowles, 40, was one of the four disabled adults found locked in the sub-basement of a Philadelphia apartment.
"The way they describe him, as if he was some kind of animal," Davis said. "You got him chained in the basement. All the lights are out. There are buckets for him to use the bathroom."
Police said the building's landlord discovered a woman and three men in the locked room when he went into the building's basement. Police said all four have the mental capacity of 10-year-olds.
"We never knew he was out of the area," Davis added. "Even when he was here, we really didn't know where he was."
Knowles' family said three years ago he moved in with a girlfriend and her mother, Linda Weston. That was the last time they saw him, until they saw a picture of Knowles taken from a Philadelphia hospital bed.
"Still a smile on his face after all he went through," Davis said.
Weston along with two other men are now behind bars. Police say they were keeping the three men and one woman captive to steal their Social Security and disability checks. They may have done the same thing to victims in Florida, Virginia and Texas.
Weston, 51, was also convicted of murder in 1981 when she starved a man to death in a closet of her Philadelphia home.
"It's going to be very emotional," Davis added. "My grandmother always prayed he would come home...the prayers obviously worked."
Knowles' family now only looks to the future. It was three years of birthdays and holidays missed, but soon they know he'll be back home where he belongs.
"It's going to be great, because that's what we need as a family," Davis said. "He's a part of our family. He always has been a part of our family. Nobody ever forgot him."
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