(WASHINGTON) - A Washington woman who was arrested on several charges stemming from an animal abuse incident will have her initial hearing later this month in Daviess County Superior Court.
April C. Diamond-Wilz, 44, was arrested by Washington police June 25 after officers investigated a June 23 complaint of a foul odor and flea infestation surrounding 305 Elm St. She was preliminarily charged with two counts of animal cruelty and driving while suspended, all Class A misdemeanors; and obstruction of justice, a Class D felony. She was released on a $500 recognizance bond June 26 and ordered to appear for her initial hearing at 1 p.m. Aug. 28.
Andrea McCann, of the Washington Times-Herald reports, when neighbors complained about the stench coming from the residence, which Diamond-Wilz had rented from Daniel Schnell of Schnellville, they told officers they believed there were dead dogs inside. They advised authorities there had been no utilities at the residence for at least two months, and they'd see Diamond-Wilz stop by occasionally, but she wasn't living there.
"Subjects advised that they could smell a terrible odor coming from the residence and advised that Wilz had two large mastiff dogs when she lived there and advised that she had left them there when she moved," WPD Ptl. Craig Cox wrote in the probable cause affidavit. "All the subjects advised that they knew the dogs had been in there because they had seen and heard them."
One neighbor had looked inside a window because she heard a dog, and she said it looked emaciated and sick.
An officer contacted Diamond-Wilz about the complaint, and she said she'd left some belongings behind and was living in Loogootee. She first advised she had the dogs with her in Loogootee, then said her daughter was living in the residence after Diamond-Wilz moved out and had the dogs. Cox told Diamond-Wilz he'd try to look inside the house the best he could to make sure the smell wasn't her daughter.
"She advised that was OK and that she would try to make it into town the next day and make contact with the daughter," Cox wrote in the affidavit.
When WPD officers checked the residence, they noticed a horrible odor and observed many of Diamond-Wilz's belongings still inside. They also spotted what appeared to be a large deceased dog covered in maggots and unrecognizable laying against the inside of the back door. The inside of the residence was covered in feces, according to the affidavit.
On June 25 a neighbor reported the front and back doors of the residence appeared to have been kicked in. Cox notified Diamond-Wilz the house may have been broken into, and she said she'd be there in 45 minutes. In subsequent phone calls, she told Cox a friend had checked on the house and locked it for her, then that she had been by to check it herself. However, Cox had been speaking with the neighbors again while he waited for her, and wrote in the affidavit that no one had driven by in that time.
When Diamond-Wilz arrived at 305 Elm St., she and Cox observed there was no dog carcass visible. In an interview at the police station, where Diamond-Wilz changed parts of her story periodically, she eventually admitted she'd left an Italian mastiff and an English mastiff in the house for two and a half months. She said the dogs were in poor health and she checked on them three or four times a week. However, neighbors said she wasn't there that often.
Diamond-Wilz also admitted her daughter never lived there and she didn't have a friend check on the possible break-in.
"After further questioning, Wilz finally admitted that Saturday after I called her about the deceased dog, she came to Washington at approximately 1 to 2 a.m. Sunday morning and scooped up the remains of the dogs with a shovel and took them to a town called Rutherford and buried them," Cox wrote. "She also stated that the other dog, Daisy, was located out of view in the hallway."
Washington Building Commissioner Chris Wimmenauer was notified about the condition of the house and asked to check it out. He referred the situation to the Daviess County Health Department, which declared the house uninhabitable until it's properly cleaned.
"There's not a structural issue with the house," Wimmenauer said. "That's the reason we referred it to the health department. I understand (the owner) is working on it. I'm not sure what headway he's made."
Environmental health specialist Geoff Stoner of the Daviess County Health Department said the house's condition was "pretty severe," with a lot of trash and filth throughout. In addition, he said a person couldn't get within 10 feet and not smell the stench. Stoner said he "posted the house and sent a letter to the property owner."
"Basically, I sent him a letter stating that the property is unfit until measures are taken to clean it up," he explained, adding he gave Schnell a time period to get the process started and contact the health department with a plan. "It's up to him to hire someone or decide how to handle it."
Schnell said he's been working the last three weeks to get the house cleaned up and has hauled out a trailer load of trash. He said the floors were covered with dog feces, clothes, hair and other trash.
"I had to use a scoop shovel to find the floor," he said, adding he's repeatedly spraying to knock down the flea population.
He said he'll inform the health department when the residence is ready for them to inspect, and they'll approve it before any new tenants move in.
"I think with a good cleaning it'll be fine," Schnell said.
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