WAUKEGAN, Ill. (CBS) — The trial continues Thursday for a Lake County woman accused of torturing dogs in her Deer Park animal shelter.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, Diane Eldrup, 48, is on trial for allowing the dogs to starve to death at her shelter. She is charged with 32 counts of animal torture and aggravated animal cruelty.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports
On Wednesday, a video tour of the Muddy Paws Animal Shelter was played in court, showing dog food and bottled water, and the bodies of 14 dead dogs in varying states of decay.
The dead dogs were found lying on top of piles of moldy feces in locked kennel cages, some of which were littered with frozen maggots. Some of the dogs had been reduced to skeletal remains.
The images presented to the jury and about a dozen people in the Lake County courtroom of Judge James Booras were so graphic that one elderly woman in the audience abruptly exited the court room, gagging all the way out.
The jury was ordered out of the courtroom after the woman’s reaction, and defense attorney John Curnyn asked Booras to declare a mistrial.
“It prejudices Diane Eldrup. The jury was watching a member of the audience (leave). We can’t get a fair trial,” Curnyn said.
Booras denied the request, stating that everyone has a right to observe the trial.
“Members of the audience should know if you can’t tolerate what is shown, please leave the courtroom,” Booras said. No other audience members left the courtroom.
The elderly woman, who did not want to share her name, was not allowed back in the courtroom. She said she attended the trial out of personal interest as both a dog owner and as a member of an animal advocacy group that writes letters to various institutions to prevent animal cruelty.
Eldrup was the owner of the Muddy Paws shelter when her estranged husband Kurt Eldrup told police he found dead dogs inside the property on Dec. 16, 2010, prosecutor Michael Mermel told the jury in his opening statement.
A total of 23 to 25 dead dogs were found at the former animal shelter, according an earlier statement by co-prosecutor Suzanne Willett. Three dead birds were also found.
“The evidence will show that the defendant killed and tortured 18 dogs. The four (dogs) that survived were feasting on carcasses in the kennels. Two veterinarians will testify that their findings were the dogs starved to death,” Mermel told the jury in his opening statement.
Cindy Williams, a Lake County Animal Control animal warden, testified about finding multiple deceased dogs in varying stages of decay throughout the Muddy Paws shelter Dec. 16, 2010. The 14 dogs were all locked in cages, without food or water and were laying on floors covered with “moldy feces” and “sticky urine,” she testified.
She narrated images of a video filmed Dec. 16, 2010 of the interior and exterior of Muddy Paws, pointing out which carcasses were skeletal remains and which ones still had fur attached.
Mermel has to prove that his client specifically intended the animals harm, Curnyn said.
The trial is expected to continue with further testimony from the prosecution Thursday.
The Lake County News-Sun contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.