What to Know
- Officials have identified the bodies of three women found in a Springfield home last week.
- They are 47-year-old Ernestine Ryans and 34-year-old America Lyden, both of Springfield; and 27-year-old Layla Escalante, of Ludlow.
- They were found at the home of Stewart Weldon, who is charged with kidnapping but has not been charged in connection with the bodies.
Family members are in disbelief after learning their loved ones were found dead at the home of a Springfield, Massachusetts, man charged last week of kidnapping another woman found in his car during a traffic stop.
Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni identified the bodies found at the home of 40-year-old Stewart Weldon as Ernestine Ryans, 47, and America Lyden, 34, both of Springfield; and Kayla Escalante, 27, of Ludlow.
The victims' families "are distraught and heartbroken," Gulluni said.
Gulluni said the medical examiner has yet to determine the cause of the deaths but called them "suspicious."
He did not say how long the bodies had been at the home, but he said two of the women had been the subjects of missing-person reports that police had investigated thoroughly.
Lyden was reported missing on Dec. 1, 2017, but hadn't been seen by her family since about June 2017.
“America was loved by her family very much, very deeply, unconditionally," said her cousin Angela Rodriguez.
Family members say Ryans had been missing since March. She was reported missing on March 18, 2018 - 10 days after her family last saw her.
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“She didn’t deserve for her life to end in the manner in which it did," said her brother Anthony Ryans. "And that’s the hardest part for us that she died alone and we couldn’t be there to help.”
It’s unclear when Escalante vanished. Police in Ludlow say she was alive as late as mid-December when she filed a police report after getting into a verbal altercation with a relative.
Escalante's family members declined to comment about the case.
"I just really hope that our district attorney does a fine job in cracking the case and helping all of us heal,” Rodriguez said.
Investigators remained at the home, which belongs to Weldon's mother, on Monday. No one has been charged in connection with the discovery of the bodies.
"The investigation will be ongoing for many days to come, and the investigation overall will continue for some period of time," he said.
Weldon was arrested May 27 after a brief car chase with police that was sparked by a traffic stop for a broken taillight. A woman in his car said she had been held captive, beaten and sexually assaulted. He was held on $1 million bail after pleading not guilty to kidnapping and other charges.
According to a police report, the woman thanked officers for saving her life, saying she didn't think she was ever going to get away.
Weldon was arraigned Monday on kidnapping and assault to rape charges pertaining to a second alleged victim and ordered held on an additional $1 million cash bail.
Prosecutors said a second woman came forward after last week's arraignment and said Weldon had kidnapped her in Feburary. No further details were released during Monday's arraignment.
Weldon did not speak at Monday's arraignment but stood expressionless and nodded slightly when a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
Weldon's public defender waived a reading of the complaint, and the new case was impounded at the request of the prosecution and defense, citing the ongoing investigation.
"Mr. Weldon has entered his plea of not guilty and looks forward to addressing these charges in the future in court as well as addressing bail at a later date," public defender Matthew Fleischner said.
Weldon is scheduled back in court on both cases on June 29.
These most recent arrests were not Weldon's first run-ins with the law.
He was convicted of burglary and theft charges in New Jersey in 2007, court documents show. In Massachusetts, he previously was charged with assault and battery, breaking and entering and robbery and spent time in jail.
Weldon was arrested three times in Springfield last year, according to police and court records, including once in October when he was accused of assaulting a woman on the street. He struggled during the arrest, according to the police report, and bit an officer on the leg. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $1,000 cash bail.