HAMPSTEAD, Md. — Emergency responders lined Black Rock Road in Hampstead on a rescue mission after the discovery of a virtual house of horrors with dozens of abused dogs, 11 of which had died in their own filth.
Neighbors said they had no idea such cruelty was unfolding behind closed doors.
"A while back, I saw one big dog and that's about it,” said Ada Rivera, “I never thought they may have that many dogs in that house."
"Even next door, they didn't know it,” added Charles Lynn, “That close."
49-year-old John Roberts and 55-year-old Laura Filler now face a total of 51 counts apiece of animal cruelty, aggravated animal cruelty and for failing to care for the abused animals.
While prosecutors are withholding pictures of the torturous conditions from the public for their criminal case, Holly Oertel described one of them depicting a padlocked crate with nothing, but bones and fur left inside, underscoring an animal's horrific death.
"How do you do this and why? What is wrong with people? Is it a mental condition?” asked Oertel, “They said today---the public defender, the man was just diagnosed with depression. Well, there's no excuse for this. No excuse."
The conditions inside the home have been described by police as one of the most disturbing scenes that many first responders had ever seen---so bad that it appears the couple had abandoned residing in the home, choosing to live in their car instead.
"When we opened our door, it was such a bad smell,” said Rivera, “We had to cover our mouths you know. It was bad. It was really bad."
Officials say the 20 Dalmatians, five Golden Retrievers, and two English Setters who survived are doing well. The news has prompted an outpouring of donations to the Humane Society of Carroll County, yet for now, the people charged with abusing them are offering no explanation for how they could pack four-dozen dogs into a single house and then allow them to suffer.
"There was no remorse,” said Oertel, “They answered no questions. They understood about their rights, and so we move on, and we just pray that we get justice, and there's people that can speak for animals that can't speak for themselves and the donations that are coming in here are incredible."
Roberts and Filler are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 3, at 8:45 a.m. at the Carroll County District Court, followed by a June 5 trial.