What started as a routine traffic stop for a broken taillight in Springfield, Massachusetts, has escalated into a succession of grisly discoveries that have shaken the blue-collar city.
Three bodies have been discovered at the home of an ex-con already at the center of a kidnapping and torture case — spurring authorities on Friday to use underground radar to search for more remains. A preliminary inspection found no additional bodies, officials said.
All three corpses were found "in and around" the home of Stewart Weldon, 40, who was arrested Sunday after the traffic stop when he bolted and led police on a chase that ended when he crashed into a patrol car, NBC10 Boston reported.
After Weldon was subdued, a woman in the passenger seat of his car told police that she had been held captive, sexually assaulted and beaten with a hammer over the course of weeks, according to the arrest report. She has not been identified.
“Thank you guys for saving my life," the woman reportedly told her rescuers. "I didn’t think I was ever going to get away.”
The victim was still hospitalized as of Friday morning with a fractured jaw, stab wounds to her abdomen, marks from being hit with a blunt object and a leg infection, Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said at a news conference.
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While investigating Weldon, police checked on a house at 1333 Page Blvd. in Springfield owned by Weldon's mother, where the bodies were eventually discovered, Jim Leydon, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, later told NBC News.
Two bodies were found at the home on Wednesday night, police told NBC10 Boston. A third body was found late Thursday.
Gulluni told reporters, "The remains are in the custody of the medical examiner in Boston and the testing is occurring as we speak."
NBC10 Boston reported that Massachusetts Department of Children and Families confirmed that a child residing in the home was taken into emergency custody.
"People were in the house," Gulluni said Friday. "Everybody who was there is accounted for and as far as we know is safe."
A preliminary report from the underground radar imaging showed no traces of new remains, Gulluni added.
Weldon has not yet been charged in connection to the discovery of the three bodies, but he pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and torture and is being held on $1 million bail.
According to court records obtained by NBC News, Weldon has several previous arrests on his record, including a 1997 unlawful weapons possession conviction and a 2008 burglary conviction in New Jersey.
More recently, he was arrested in Springfield last October on a charge of assaulting a woman and then resisting arrest, The Boston Globe reported.
A neighbor also told the Globe that Weldon showed an uncomfortable amount of attention to his 21-year-old daughter, following her home from her job at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts in May.
Weldon's neighbors said they were stunned by the discovery of the bodies.
“If they had never stopped him for the taillight, then no one would have known,” Brenda Quinones, 23, told the Globe. “It’s just too creepy. People would still be walking by his house, and who knows if he would have gone after more women.”