WAUKEGAN, Ill.(CBS) — A jury has convicted a former Lake County shelter operator on charges of animal torture.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports, Diane Eldrup, 48, faces up to five years in prison on a conviction of torture, as well as aggravated cruelty to animals.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Dave Berner reports

Last December, far north suburban Kildeer police were called to the Muddy Paws Dog Rescue animal shelter on Rand Road. They discovered 30 dogs, three birds and an opossum that officials said had all starved to death.

At trial, a video tour of the Muddy Paws Animal Shelter was played, 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 Wednesday were so graphic that one elderly woman in the audience abruptly exited the court room, gagging all the way out.

The graphic images also swayed the jury, which returned its verdict around 10 p.m. Thursday after six hours of deliberations.

Eldrup told the court she failed to care for the animals because she was overwhelmed by financial problems and the collapse of her marriage.

“It’s a lot of weight on her shoulders. She cared for them (the dogs) when no one else wanted them,” defense attorney John Curnyn said. “The world got so heavy that she fell apart … the worst you can say about Diane is that she is neglectful.”

Curnyn pleaded with Judge Booras not to remand Eldrup into custody following her conviction, citing her lack of criminal history and her 9-year-old son.

Assistant State’s Attorney Suzanne Willett asked the judge to revoke Eldrup’s bond.
Booras did not order that Eldrup be taken into custody.

“I am just all around thrilled and gratified by the jury’s verdict, especially since they took the time to convict her of 54 charges,” Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Mermel said following the verdict. “There’s no question they were sending a message, not only to Diane Eldrup but to others who would hurt helpless animals.”

Eldrup is due back in court for sentencing Oct. 18.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed o this report.