Thursday, June 27, 2013
SNELLVILLE -- Thirty-one dying cats.
Thirty-one dying cats, sick with upper respiratory infections and open sores, missing splotches of hair, at least six pregnant.
Thirty-one dying cats, crammed into a Snellville hotel room, with a bathtub full of feces and diapers, the smell of urine detectable just by wandering onto the same floor.
Thirty-one dying cats -- and one 19-year-old boy with cerebral palsy -- are what Snellville police and Gwinnett County animal control officers allegedly found inside the room at Crestwood Suites, tucked behind a shopping center near the intersection of Scenic Highway and Ronald Reagan Parkway.
Thirty-one dying cats, 29 of which have since been euthanized, and a pair of sisters already out on bond following a similar discovery at their Loganville home.
"It was horrible," said Sgt. Chip Moore, director of the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.
Leah and Elisha Waller were arrested Wednesday, charged with cruelty to animals and exploitation of a disabled adult and issued 24 citations apiece: 23 for animal neglect, one for hoarding. Authorities initially reported to the hotel at 1784 Presidential Circle on Tuesday after an anonymous caller tipped off a manager, who went into the Wallers' room to check on their welfare.
"The smell was overwhelming," Snellville Police Det. Orlando Concepcion said.
When animal control officers knocked on the door later that day, Leah and Elisha reportedly attempted to hide the herd of tremendously ill felines inside the bathroom of their $40-a-night hotel room. That bathroom was ripe with dirty clothes, feces and urine, with a bathtub filled to the brim with more feces and diapers -- presumably from Leah's 19-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy.
The cats were seized, and all but two had been put down as of Thursday afternoon.
"We had no option but to humanely euthanize them because of the condition they were in," Moore said.
The scene was familiar for animal control officers who, almost exactly two months prior, had responded to the Waller home on Range Way in Loganville to find two dogs, one allegedly with a broken back and the other with an infected anus and its penis rotting off.
Both were living in awful conditions alongside Leah Waller's son.
"The grass was tall, yard covered in feces, trash in backyard, and standing water in the driveway and on the side of the house," a Gwinnett County police officer wrote in April. "A van in the driveway appeared to be where food was stored and contained various food items including mayonnaise. Along with trash and feces, the backyard also contained medical supplies and had an IV bag and IV hanging pole."
There were "inches of feces lining the floors" of the home, the officer wrote.
Both Wallers were arrested April 25 and released on bond. That case was still looming when they were arrested again Wednesday. This time they're being held without bond.
Only the dogs were recovered from the house in Loganville, but officers reported seeing cats around the premises in the days leading up to the Wallers' arrest, Moore said.
"We can't say for sure but the assumption is that (those in the Snellville hotel room) were the same cats," he said.
Concepcion, the Snellville police detective, said Leah Waller's disabled son was left with his uncle and that a report has been filed with the Department of Family and Child Services.
"While staying in the hotel room, the defendants would usually leave him by himself with the room in deplorable conditions," Concepcion said. "He is now safe with another family member."