Hundreds of snakes, many decaying, found in house in Santa Ana, California

Posted at 6:57 AM, Jan 30, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-30 08:57:21-05

By Jethro Mullen

(CNN) — Neighbors had been complaining for a while about the dreadful smell coming from William Buchman’s house in Santa Ana, California.

“The stench is overwhelming,” said Forest Long, Jr., who lives nearby in the Orange County city. Long said friends were becoming reluctant to visit because of the nasty odor in the area.

“It smells like something’s dead,” he told CNN affiliate KCAL/KCBS.

The neighbors’ complaints prompted an investigation by the Department of Animal Services.

And when authorities raided Buchman’s two-story house Wednesday, they discovered the cause of the putrid odor.

Vast numbers of snakes — some alive, most of them dead and decaying.

In some cases, only the skins remained. Mice and rats were also in abundance.

Acting on a search warrant, police and animal services officers wearing protective suits and masks searched the house, finding dirty rooms full of stacks of plastic bins containing pythons.

Police said “several hundred snakes” were believed to be in Buchman’s home.

In just one room, they found more than 50 dead pythons and seven live ones, KCAL/KCBS reported.

“They’re very cold and it appears that most of them haven’t eaten in quite a while,” Animal Services Cpl. Sondra Berg told the local broadcaster. “There’s various stages of dying and dead and underweight.”

Police said Buchman, a 53-year-old teacher, has been arrested and booked on suspicion of animal cruelty. He has not yet appeared in court or been formally charged.

CNN has not been able to determine whether Buchman has legal counsel, and has not yet been able to contact anyone representing him for comment.

It wasn’t immediately clear why he had kept so many snakes in his house.

CNN’s Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.

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