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Family members in Winchester animal hoarding case to face judge Wednesday

Neighbors spoke out for the first time since the animals were removed from the home this summer, where 189 cats, two dogs and a ferret were found living in filth.

WINSTED, Conn. — Members of the family accused of hoarding nearly 200 animals in a Winchester home are set to appear before a judge on Wednesday.

James and Laura Thomen and their daughter, Marissa O’Brien were charged with 106 counts of animal cruelty and two counts of risk of injury to a minor. A fourth suspect is expected to be arrested at any time.

Neighbors spoke out for the first time since the animals were removed from the Moore Avenue home over the summer, where 189 cats, two dogs and a ferret were found living in filth and various stages of neglect along with eight people, including two children.

“When they were pulling the cats out of there I was just floored. I was amazed. The amount of cruelty,” remarked next-door neighbor Annette Newman.

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“He was a recluse. He never really came out,” remarked Newman.

But fellow neighbor Victor Duvourg said, “The fella would always get his grandchildren on and off the bus and wave, and said how are you doing?”

Newman told FOX61 it’s taken a long time of sounding the alarm for somebody to do something.

“We reported them to the board of health at least half a dozen times over the last 10 years because of the smell,” Newman said.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 3 arrested in Winsted cat hoarding case

The smell was so bad she thought it was a septic issue or a drainage problem with a nearby culvert.

“I have small grandchildren. The first thing those boys wanted to do is get to the water and play but we couldn’t let them down there because the smell was just awful,” Newman added.

Duvourg told FOX61 his thoughts are with the two kids, ages 6 and 10, who were torn from their home and are now in DCF custody.

“I have my own dealings with the DCF system so I feel for the kids," Duvourg said. "Definitely a tough spot for any parent or family member who stepped up to help with those kids.”

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All the cats were taken to shelters in June and dozens were re-homed, including two by town manager Josh Kelly.

“There was no way that I couldn’t. Seeing the conditions they were in,” said Kelly.

The rehabilitation effort was the work of multiple animal welfare agencies including the animal law advocates of Desmond’s Army.

“Hoarding is 100% a repetitive behavior,” said President Zilla Cannamela.

Cannamela told FOX61 it’s a balancing act between holding someone accountable under the law and getting them the help they need for a mental illness.

“We would look for a no-contact order with animals and a no-possession order or animals,” Cannamela said.

We also learned that one cat did tragically pass away.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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