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3 charged in Winsted cat hoarding case make first court appearance

Marissa O’Brien and Laura and James Thomen, who are facing 106 counts of cruelty to animals, were told to not have any animals from here on out.

TORRINGTON, Conn. — The three Litchfield County people accused of hoarding more than 200 cats in their Winchester home appeared in court on Wednesday for the first time.

Marissa O’Brien and Laura and James Thomen, who are facing 106 counts of cruelty to animals and two counts of risk of injury to a minor, were told to not have any animals from here on out.

They were also told to comply with the Department of Children and Families in regard to the two children who were living in their Winsted home at the time the animals were found.

RELATED: Family members in Winchester animal hoarding case to face judge Wednesday

During their arraignment in Torrington, the trio’s attorneys were given the green light for them to apply for an accelerated rehabilitation program.

“It’s a diversionary program in which if the courts grant it for, in the case because it is a C felony, for a good cause, that my client will enter into this program with whatever conditions the courts want to set and if successful the charges will be dismissed at the end of it,” said attorney Robert Salero.

There isn’t a guarantee the three will be accepted into this program. That decision is left up to the courts.

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While the arraignment was short, the arrest warrants for each person charged are long.

According to the arrest warrants, the complaint first came in of June of this year. When officials responded to the home on Moore Ave., they noticed a strong odor of cat urine and ammonia. They said the smell was unbearable for responding officers.

“We honestly thought it was the septic or the sewer because the smell became that bad,” said one neighbor.

The cats found at the home were covered with fleas and had severe upper respiratory and eye infections, the warrants said. They were all over the living room and kitchen on counter tops, a kitchen table, cabinets, furniture, and floors.

During the clean-out, officers found two kittens in a box dead in a freezer. It took officials more than two weeks to rescue all the animals from the home.

“When they were pulling the cats out of there. I was floored. I was amazed,” said a neighbor.

RELATED: 3 arrested in Winsted cat hoarding case

Now, the legal side of this begins.

“We’re going to need some time before we can make any determinations but I do understand the prosecutor's positions with the condition of release,” said Salero.

Their next court date is Jan. 10, 2023.

DeAndria Turner is a multi-media journalist at FOX61 News. She can be reached at dturner@fox61.com.


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