A schoolteacher was arrested on Wednesday after hundreds of living and dead pythons in plastic bins were found stacked floor to ceiling inside his stench-filled suburban California home.
As investigators wearing respirator masks carried the reptiles out of the house by the score and stacked them in the driveway, reporters and passers-by gagged at the smell. Some held their noses or walked away from the five-bedroom home to get a breath of air.
“The smell alone – I feel like I need to take a shower for a week,” said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. “They’re pretty much in all the bedrooms – everywhere.”
Officers said they found more than 400 snakes – at least 220 of them dead – as well as numerous mice and rats, in the Santa Ana home of William Buchman after neighbours complained about the smell. He was arrested for investigation of neglect in the care of animals, Bertagna said.
Buchman, 53, was still in custody on Wednesday afternoon, Bertagna said. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District, where he works, declined comment, saying it was a police matter.
Buchman has not yet had a court appearance or been formally charged and it wasn’t clear if he had an attorney.
Authorities said he lived alone, and neighbours said his mother, who had lived with him, had passed away within the past few years.
Sondra Berg, the supervisor for the Santa Ana Police Department’s Animal Services Division, said four of the five bedrooms in the home were stacked from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with plastic bins on wooden and metal racks. The bins were packed so tightly, Berg said, that they didn’t require lids because there was no room for the snakes to slither out.
Each snake was catalogued by name and type, and Berg said Buchman told authorities he was involved in a snake-breeding enterprise.
“House of Horrors: That’s the best way to describe it,” Berg said of the house. “I mean there’s so many dead snakes … ranging from dead for months to just dead. There’s an infestation of rats and mice all over the house. There are rats and mice in plastic storage tubs that are actually cannibalizing each other.”
Some of the snakes were little more than skeletons. Others, only recently dead, were covered with flies and maggots.