Four elderly men were held captive for as long as a decade in a Texas home along with four mentally challenged women, US police say.
Three of the men were so badly malnourished that they were taken to hospital. Authorities are still trying to determine whether the women were also captives.
One man, who did not live in the Houston home, has been taken into custody for questioning but has not yet been charged.
Local media reported on Friday that the men were found inside a trash-filled garage with no beds to sleep on or chairs to sit on and a door that was nailed shut.
“They were enticed to that location with the promise of beer and cigarettes and not allowed to leave and forced to turn over cheques,” Houston police spokesman Kese Smith told AFP.
One of the men told police he’d been there for 10 years. The others had been there for a shorter period, Smith said.
Smith said he could not comment on the conditions within the brick bungalow or on reports that the men taken to hospital were so weak they couldn’t walk.
Police have determined that those men are 80, 74, and somewhere in his 50s.
The men were freed after police got a call about several people being held against their will.
The fourth, who was in better shape and is 65 years old, sat calmly on the stoop as news crews gathered nearby.
He told KTRX news that he had been staying there for about six months and had no desire to leave despite the poor conditions.
The men appeared to be invalids and may have been homeless when they were lured into what one man called a “dungeon,” Sergeant Steve Murdock told the Houston Chronicle.
“They were prisoners in that house,” Murdock told the paper.
Neighbour Robert Paris told the Chronicle he hadn’t noticed any elderly men coming and going in the three months he’d lived across the street.
“It’s pretty weird,” he told the paper. “It’s really bad news.”
Adult protective services are interviewing the women – a grandmother, her daughter, her granddaughter and another women believed to be unrelated – to determine how they ended up in the house and under what conditions, Smith said.