San Diego police and animal control officials are investigating allegations of animal neglect and elder abuse at a million-dollar home in an exclusive San Diego community.
The formidable clutter in the front yard of the home on Avenida de las Pescas in the affluent community is disturbing and dangerous.
However, according to officials who inspected the home, they were not expecting to discover the filth, stench of animal waste, and locked doors which held dogs in bathrooms and bedrooms until they had dug under the doors. Nor did they expect to see cats confined to feces-covered cages.
They were also not expecting to find that the locked doors had held 90-year-old Robert Stella prisoner for years.
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Children of Mr. Stella, the homeowner, called San Diego police and Animal Control last week, after their father, a World War II veteran and retired nuclear physicist, was found propped up in his wheelchair in the driveway.
Police are investigating allegations that Stella was severely abused by his live-in girlfriend, an alleged homeless woman he befriended years ago, after meeting her in an alley behind Mary Star-of-the-Sea Church, the family said.
Robert Stella was removed from the home last Thursday by ambulance. Miles Criscuolo said his grandfather was malnourished and dehydrated and under 24-hour care at a nearby hospital after his sister called the authorities.
Criscuolo confirmed that Mr. Stella was treated in ICU for six days and has since been moved to a nearby care facility where he is being treated for severe bedsores.
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On Saturday, San Diego County animal control officers recovered 17 dogs and cats total and removed nine of the animals, according to NBC News.
The homeowner’s caregiver, described as a 57-year-old woman who has been living in the home for years, reportedly kept eight of the animals.
Officials wouldn't say what condition the animals were in, NBC reports. Deputy Director Dan DeSousa stated that the department is looking into whether animal neglect or abuse charges need to be filed.
Criscuolo said there was an animal carcass in the hallway, animal feces, dirty walls and soiled furniture pack the house. “It’s not pretty inside,” he said. He claims the caregiver is a hoarder and fails to take care of his elderly grandfather as well as the animals.
Family members report that the woman, who lived with Robert Stella and was supposedly caring for him, stole money and abused him for years.
Stella’s granddaughter, Emily Criscuolo, said “She shut out the family and totally isolated him.”
She added: “It was really hard for us to find out what was going on inside the home because the woman wouldn’t let any of the family members inside…”
As of Friday evening, March 7, no charges have been filed, NBC-7 reports. The family says it has given the girlfriend/caregiver until the end of the month to vacate the home, in the 6600 block of Avenida de las Pescas.
Crisuolo said her grandfather, a veteran who survived the Battle of the Bulge, has been living in horrible conditions without enough food and water for years. The woman was very controlling and would tie him to a bed when she left the house, the family said.
San Diego Animal Control officers were reportedly at the house again Thursday night removing the carcass of a dead cat, NBC-7 announced.
His son, Ramon Stella, said a sealed court document the family has learned about could be a marriage certificate between his father and the girlfriend, though he is not yet certain.
“The attorneys are going to get a court order to open it up and see what it is,” he said.
Ramon Stella said the girlfriend moved into the home about five years ago. She once produced a cable access TV show called “Victoria’s Secret Library,” which aired on Time Warner Cable in San Diego.
He said his father would always thank the family for their cautionary advice, though assured them he was all right.
A neighbor told the Light “the family has been through hell trying to get this woman out of his life. … they have called Adult Protective Services many times, as well as County Animal Control. It looks like the family might finally be able to take control of his life again … but why did it have to take this long?”