SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The smell wafting from the house was bad, to put it mildly. It was the result of more than 200 dead pythons, 200 still-living snakes, and a rodent infestation.
It was bad enough to send veteran investigators gasping for air. Bad enough to make normally poised TV reporters hold their noses. Bad enough to make much of a neighborhood gag.
"House of Horrors: That's the best way to describe it," said Sondra Berg, supervisor for the Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services Division after coming out of the five-bedroom Orange County home of elementary school teacher William Buchman.
"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," Berg said.
Buchman, 53, was arrested for investigation of neglect in the care of animals, police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said, and remained in police custody late Wednesday.
Five months earlier, that smell had driven neighbors to complain about the home, with some of them speculating there was a dead person inside.
"It got so bad as to where my wife would throw up," next-door neighbor Forest Long Sr. said. "She'd get out of the car and run into the house."
Long said he had once been friendly with Buchman, and they would get together to watch televised sports.
But Buchman, who lost the mother who lived with him a few years earlier and had since lived alone, stopped coming around about a year ago, Long said.