An elderly man who was locked in a Houston garage for more than a year died a week after he was freed. William Merle Greenawalt, 79 was pronounced dead six days later, Houston police said in a statement, which did not detail a cause of his death. According to officials his cause of death will be determined by medical examiners in the county’s forensic department. The other two men, ages 59 and 64, who were allegedly held captive have been released from hospitals to the care of the state’s Adult Protective Services. Officers responded to a call at a modest single-story Houston home and found three men living without any level of care. The men were forced to sleep on the filthy floor, had no restroom, were only given scraps of food and there was a variety of locks on the door to keep them inside, court records show.
According to tax records, the 50-year-old home was a tight fit at just over 1,400 square feet for nearly 10 people police believe may have lived there. Police found the garage door nailed shut and had to break burglar bars on the window to reach the men. The converted garage had no furniture except for one chair, a malfunctioning air conditioning unit. The men were so badly malnourished that they had to be carried from the home on stretchers and hospitalized.
According to the police the three men claimed to have been misled by suspect into residing at the home in exchange for food and shelter, all three men claimed the suspect used force and coercion to keep them there for the purpose of monetary gain. Investigators are looking into whether the men had been forced to hand over their government aid, including disability, Social Security and veterans checks. At least some of the alleged captives were believed to be homeless.
Walter Renard Jones, 31 a grandson of the home’s owner - has been charged with injury to the elderly by act and injury to the elderly by omission, according to Houston police spokeswoman Jodi Silva. Police have not said whether they would upgrade the charges in light of the death.
Also it is unknown if the four women who had been living in the main part of the house, owned by Jones’ grandmother Essie Mae Scranton, were also being held captive. Out of the four women, three of them were said to have disabilities and metal illness, and the fourth was described as a care giver.
The home where the men were held was once the headquarters of the nonprofit Faith Ministries whose declared mission was to feed and shelter the homeless. It was run by Jones’ grandmother Regina Jones. In December 2008, the residence was registered to the non-profit. The Houston Chronicle reported that in 2010, state authorities revoked the ministry’s nonprofit status because of tax reporting issues.
Court records show that Jones had a criminal record extending back to 2001 and has previously been arrested for theft and possession of marijuana. In 2009, a grand jury indicted him on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender after he was convicted in juvenile court in 1997 of two counts of felony aggravated sexual assault of a child. In 2009 the charge was eventually dismissed for lack of evidence, court records show.