HOUSTON – (CNN) — Texas authorities are investigating whether eight people were held captive for years in a north Houston house, with some perhaps dwelling in what has been described as a “prison room”
At least four men have told investigators they were held against their will, and authorities are looking into whether four women found in the house were also being held, police said.
The men are between the ages of 50 and 80, police said. Investigators were still trying to determine the ages and identities of the women, who police characterized as suffering from mental illness. A man has been detained for questioning. No charges have been filed.
Neighbors who saw the men brought out were shaken by what they saw.
“Oh my God. It just touched my heart. I mean, I feel for them. I don’t know. It just really got me hurt,” said one neighbor.
Police got a report that three to four people were being held against their will and went to the scene for a welfare check, police spokesman Kese Smith said.
Officers broke down a nailed-shut front door to get into the house, CNN affiliate KTRK said. Police said they saw trash strewn everywhere and found what they called a “prison room” with no beds and chairs, the affiliate said.
After officers arrived, they found three men — all apparently malnourished and living in a converted garage.
Emergency crews took the people to Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, police said. Hospital officials did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment. A fourth man was also apparently held at the residence, but was not transported to a hospital.
The women also lived at that location, but it isn’t clear whether they lived in the converted garage.
The four men told the officers that they had been held at the house over varying lengths of time. One said he was held as long as 10 years. Police were investigating whether they had been forced to turn over their veterans’ checks.
Police say they believe that the men could have been homeless and enticed there with the promise of cigarettes and beer.