Metro

Springfield man indicted on murder charges after bodies of 3 women found at his home

Stewart Weldon now faces three counts of murder, eight counts of strangulation, nine counts of aggravated rape, two counts of rape, plus charges of kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and assault to rape.
Don Treeger/The Republican via Associated Press/File 2018
Stewart Weldon now faces three counts of murder, eight counts of strangulation, nine counts of aggravated rape, two counts of rape, plus charges of kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, and assault to rape.

A grand jury on Thursday indicted a Springfield man on charges of murder, rape, and strangulation, alleging he attacked 11 victims in a one-man crime spree that began in the spring of 2017 and continued until officers pulled him over for a broken taillight in May.

The 52-count indictment against Stewart Weldon, 41, was announced by Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, alleging the man killed three women, raped, and strangled seven other people, and kidnapped and assaulted an 11th person.

Springfield police arrested Weldon on May 27 for allegedly kidnapping and beating a woman, who was in his car when he was pulled over. Three days later, officers were summoned to his green bungalow at 1333 Page Blvd. after another resident in the house complained about a rancid smell at the property. They found the bodies of America Lyden, 34, and Ernestine Ryans, 47, both of Springfield, and Kayla Escalante, 27, of Ludlow.

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Ryans’s older brother, Anthony, said in a telephone interview that he is grappling with relief and anger over the scope of Weldon’s alleged crimes against his sister and others.

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The indictments accuse Weldon of carrying out five attacks involving rape and strangulation that hadn’t previously been disclosed to the public. The indictments indicate three women were killed between Aug. 1, 2017, and May 2018.

“You can’t help but think, ‘Why was he allowed to be roaming society?’ ” said Ryans, 49, who was alerted to the indictments by prosecutors while he was at work. “This could have been avoided and should have been avoided if people had done their jobs.”

After speaking to prosecutors, Ryans said, he called his sister’s daughters with the news. He said his family is still waiting on the results of his sister’s autopsy. The indictments didn’t reveal how the women died.

Weldon’s arraignment in Hampden Superior Court in Springfield hasn’t been scheduled, according to Gulluni’s office. In the statement, Gulluni thanked investigators for managing the crime scene at Weldon’s home and tracking evidence.

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“With these fifty-two indictments in hand, we will now begin a vigorous prosecution with an eye towards justice for the victims and their families,” Gulluni said.

Weldon’s lawyer, Brian E. Murphy, said his client “looks forward to the opportunity to defend himself against these horrific allegations in a court of law.”

Weldon is being held on $2 million in separate kidnapping cases. In the first case, Weldon is accused of beating the woman who was found in his vehicle when police pulled him over on May 27. The indictments say Weldon allegedly struck the woman with a hammer, level, screwdriver, copper pipe, and chair.

After that case became public, a second woman came forward, telling police Weldon had offered her a ride home in February, but then drove her to his home on Page Boulevard and tried to drag her inside as she fought his advances. The woman escaped, she said, after another woman intervened.

Weldon has pleaded not guilty in both kidnapping cases.

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The indictments depict a man who kidnapped and assaulted all of his victims.

Among the cases that hadn’t been publicly disclosed until Thursday is an attack from June 2017 when Weldon allegedly kidnapped and raped a person and stole a phone.

In another case, he allegedly wielded a gun as he raped, strangled, and robbed a person, the indictments said. One victim was raped and strangled twice between June 2017 and February, the indictments said.

The documents identify the victims by initials and didn’t reveal their genders. All the attacks occurred in Springfield.

Last month, authorities acknowledged that Weldon had been linked to sexual assaults reported to police in 2009 and 2017, but had never faced charges.

In the 2009 case, prosecutors said they have tried to find the woman who reported the attack but have yet to locate her.

The more recent attack occurred in May 2017 when Chicopee police were summoned to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield to speak with a woman who said she was assaulted in Chicopee.

During the investigation, Chicopee officers learned the alleged attack took place in Springfield and referred the woman to police in that city. In January, Chicopee police were notified of DNA evidence linking Weldon to the attack. But when Chicopee investigators called their counterparts in Springfield about the DNA evidence, they learned Springfield officers hadn’t launched an investigation because the woman never approached them about the attack.

In interviews with the Globe in June, more than a dozen people who knew Weldon described him as a man with a reckless temper who appeared to focus his pursuit on women who seemed to be sick or struggling.

Lyden and Ryans were both reported missing before they were found dead. Escalante was not. All three women were known to struggle with drug addiction.

Lyden, who had two daughters, was buried in Worcester with her sister, Felicia Canales Gomez, who died in 2010 of a drug overdose. A benefit to help raise money for an education fund for Lyden’s daughters is scheduled for next Friday in Springfield.

Canales Gomez’s mother-in-law, Hope Gomez, said she is searching for closure.

“He needs to pay for what he did,” said Gomez, who was close with Lyden. “Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for the family.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.