Mary Lou Petrucci, 55, of Reading, Pennsylvania, was charged Friday with holding Harold Scheaffer, 72, in her home against his will. The home is in the 1500 block of Mineral Springs Road. Neighbors called it a "House of Horrors,” reports sfgate.com.
According to police, Scheaffer and Petrucci had been dating and he moved into the house in 2010. Court documents indicate the two broke up shortly after Scheaffer moved in.
Scheaffer said Petrucci lived on the second floor and he was held prisoner in one room on the first floor. Police allege that Petrucci locked Scheaffer in a room with access to a bathroom and nailed the windows shut.
Scheaffer told police on October 19, after his daughter had rescued him from the house, that Petrucci locked him in the room from July to September and fed him only once a day. He said he could not recall the exact dates, according topublicopiniononline.com.
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On Friday, when authorities arrested Mary Lou Petrucci, they found animal feces throughout her house and also numerous domestic animals and wildlife--some running around freely and some in cages--and an estimated thousands of dollars in health-code violations.
Petrucci was arraigned before District Justice Michael Leonardziak on charges of false imprisonment and recklessly endangering another person. The judge said Petrucci still owes $12,000 in fines for other offenses. Police said Petrucci was fined in the past for hoarding dozens of animals and for health code violations.
DAUGHTER PAID RANSOM TO FREE HER FATHER
Scheaffer's daughter, Lynanne, said a two-month search for her father led her to Petrucci's home. “There were a lot of times I couldn't sleep,” Lynanne Schaeffer told WFMZ-TV. “Anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, pretty much everything.” “She's a monster, pretty much," said Scheaffer.
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Petrucci allegedly had started dating another man after Schaeffer’s father moved in with her, stated Lynanne Schaeffer, and the man was living mostly in his car parked on the property.
Lynanne said she learned Sept. 13 that her father, who suffers from the early stages of dementia, was locked in the room. That's when she said she ran into Petrucci's new lover and asked him for help.
"And then I just, um, paid a ransom pretty much to get him back," Scheaffer told WFMZ News. "He was locked in the house. With dead bolts so he couldn't get out of the house, so I paid him to get him out."
HISTORY OF ANIMAL HOARDING
Back in 2006, Petrucci had to pay fines for hoarding more than 40 cats and dogs in Montgomery County. In June of this year, Mary Lou Petrucci refused to go on camera to explain the dozens of pets she claimed were well taken care of, says WFMZ News. Neighbors complained about the stench and the flies, one saying that it was “the smell of dead animals.”
On Friday, Petrucci wasn't around to explain what the Animal Rescue League agents found, reports WFMZ News.
"This time my officers pulled a warrant and we came in. So far we've taken a dog, two raccoons, a box turtle, there's a bunch of fish in there and there's about eight cats in there yet," said Harry Brown, III, the executive director of the Animal Rescue League of Berks County.
Raccoons are typically found in the wild. The ARL said two were found in cages. And the other animals were living in filth like they were in June, they reported. Brown said, "No, it's not livable conditions for anything.”
Brown said Petrucci has already cost the League more than $100,000 in medical expenses to treat 22 stray cats seized from her home last June 29.
Brown said the agency received a tip that Petrucci, who was free on bail in the first animal-hoarding case, continued to keep animals. "This is just so sad," Brown said as he put a caged raccoon into his van.
Petrucci was reportedly yelling incoherently as she waited to be transported to Berks County Prison, where she is being held on $100,000 bail. She is awaiting trial on 25 previous animal-cruelty charges.