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Grisly discovery in suspected kidnapper’s home

The women whose bodies were found at Stewart Weldon’s Springfield, Massachusetts home were identified by Hampden District lawyer Anthony Gulluni as Ernestine Ryans, 47, and America Lyden, 34, both of Springfield, and Kayla Escalante, 27, of Ludlow, a neighbouring town.

He was arrested following a chase after police tried to stop him for having a broken tail light. But a woman in his car, who according to police was distraught and crying uncontrollably, said he had held her against her will for a month, sexually assaulted her and beaten her.

The woman was taken to a hospital with multiple visible injuries but she is expected to survive, the district attorney said.

Mr Gulluni would not call the three deaths homicides, saying the medical examiner was still trying to determine the cause and manner of death, but he said they are “suspicious at the very least.”

The victims’ families “are distraught and heartbroken,” he said.

He did not elaborate on 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.

Ms Lyden was reported missing on 1 December, and Ms Ryans was reported missing on 18 March.

Investigators remain at the home, which belongs to Weldon’s mother. No one has yet been charged in connection with the discovery of the bodies.

The investigation at Weldon’s home began days after he was arrested for fleeing a traffic stop in his car. A woman in the car said she was being held against her will by Weldon, who had sexually assaulted and beaten her. Weldon pleaded not guilty last week to related charges and was held on $1 million bail.

After that arraignment, a second woman came forward and said Weldon had kidnapped her in February, prosecutors said.

Weldon did not speak at the arraignment but stood expressionless and nodded slightly when a not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. Bail was set at $1 million on the new charges.

Weldon’s public defender waived a reading of the complaint, and the new case was impounded at the request of the prosecution and defence, 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 29 June.

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