SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - A California schoolteacher was arrested Wednesday after hundreds of living and dead pythons in plastic bins were found stacked floor to ceiling inside his stench-filled home in suburban Orange County.
As investigators wearing respirator masks carried the reptiles out of the house and stacked them in the driveway, reporters and passers-by gagged at the smell. Some held their noses or walked away from the five-bedroom home to get a breath of air.
"The smell alone - I feel like I need to take a shower for a week," said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. "They're pretty much in all the bedrooms - everywhere."
Officers found as many as 400 snakes, as well as numerous mice and rats, in the Santa Ana home of William Buchman after neighbors complained about the smell. He was arrested for investigation of neglect in the care of animals, Bertagna said.
Buchman, 53, was still in custody Wednesday afternoon, Bertagna said. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District, where he works, declined comment, saying it was a police matter.
Buchman has not yet had a court appearance or been formally charged and it wasn't clear if he had an attorney.
Authorities said he lived alone, and neighbors said his mother, who had lived with him, had passed away within the past few years.
Sondra Berg, the supervisor for the Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services Division, said four bedrooms in the home were stacked from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with plastic bins on wooden and metal racks. The bins were packed so tightly, Berg said, that they didn't require lids because there was no room for the snakes to slither out.
Each snake was catalogued by name and type, and Berg said Buchman told authorities he was involved in a snake-breeding enterprise.
Some of the snakes were little more than skeletons. Others, only recently dead, were covered with flies and maggots.
Next-door neighbor Forest Long Sr. said he has known Buchman for years, adding the men had once been friendly, getting together to watch sports on television.
But he noticed a change in his neighbor about a year ago, he said, adding Buchman stopped coming around and, when he did, he appeared to have gained a good deal of weight.
"Something changed in Bill, yes it did," he said. "Something triggered it because I couldn't even think that that was going on."