Berwyn Home Stuffed With Animals Was ‘Hell Hole,’ Shelter Director Says

BERWYN, Ill. (CBS) – Exotic birds. Kinkajous. A fruit bat. Those are animals you’d most likely see at a zoo, but the animals and more than 200 others were living in a single Berwyn home.

Investigators went to the home on Lombard Avenue after a 14-year-old boy was found dead in the back yard.

CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reports.

A Cockatiel is missing virtually all the feathers on its back. Its spine is visible from malnutrition. Seventy-four birds, four rabbits, a guinea pig and two dogs were encrusted with feces.

Linda Estrada, president and director of the Animal Welfare League, says her investigators told her it’s one of the worst cases they’ve ever seen.

“And they’ve been doing it for a while,” she said.

One hundred and nine cats found in the house had to be put down. They were never socialized and attacked investigators. They also had feline AIDS and leukemia, Estrada said.

Back at the Berwyn house, a fencing company was installing a mesh covered fence around the home.

Five children between the ages of 12 and 18 were living in the house with their mother. Fourteen-year-old Matthew Degner was found dead in the back yard Thursday.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the teen died from pneumonia.

Neighbors say they never even knew so many children were living in the house, in such horrible conditions.

“They looked sad, depressed, like something was wrong. They never talked to any of the other children,” neighbor Denia Lopez said.

Neighbors say their mother was always gardening. They thought the strong odor at the house was from manure used for gardening, not a home overrun by animals.

“My heart weeps for the children, the animals. That was a hell hole,” Estrada said.

Three children are now under the care of the Department of Children and Family Services. An 18-year-old is hospitalized for an undisclosed illness.

Their mother remains in lockup at the Berwyn Police Station and has not been charged with anything. Police say no comment will come until the investigation is complete.

All of the surviving animals are up for adoption at the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge. The kinkajous were sent to a shelter out of state.

  • billyd

    What an awful story. WHat is wrong with us as a society that this can go on right under our noses and isn’t addressed until a kid dies?

  • Vicky

    What could she have been thinking???? We have two guinea pigs, a dog and one bird and that is a whole lot of work already. Sounds like they meant well bringing home strays and unwanted pets and it got out of hand in a big way; you can’t save the whole world b yourself. I wish people would all spay/neuter their animals. Many years ago, my husband and I went to a shelter for one cat and came out with two after we learned that another was being put to death the next day, and I know a few people that have 4 and five cats/dogs; even that is a lot!!!

  • Vicky

    Many people in our society treat animals (life) like garbage, so no wonder many people treat each other the same way; no respect for life……and that is gonna do us all in.

  • jr

    Did the neighbors notice the kids living there and not going to school or communicating with no one. How did the neibhors not notice the stench or animal noises coming from the house. Why did the noeighbors not complain to police about any of these things ??? Everyone was playing a blind eye. You can always call in strange activities without giving your name.

  • unamused

    The mother needs to be filed on for manslaughter. Her actions caused the death of her son.

  • Mom Charged After Disabled Boy Dies At Squalid Berwyn Home « CBS Chicago

    […] son, Matthew Degner, 14, was pronounced dead at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn Thursday afternoon after he was found dead in the back yard at 2834 Lombard Av. in Berwyn. An autopsy Friday determined Degner died of bronchopneumonia and his death was ruled natural, […]

  • Children In Squalid Berwyn Home Had Almost Never Had Medical Care « CBS Chicago

    […] was pronounced dead at MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn this past Thursday afternoon after he was found dead in the back yard at 2834 Lombard Av. He was lying outside, wearing only a […]

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