Police: Woman held man captive, hoarded animals

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READING (AP) — Authorities arresting a woman charged with keeping an elderly man captive for months and denying him food arrived at her home to find dozens of animals and deplorable conditions.


Mary Lou Petrucci, 55, of Reading was charged Friday with holding Harold Scheaffer, 72, in her home against his will. Court documents indicate the two had dated but broke up shortly after Scheaffer moved in.


Police allege that Petrucci then locked Scheaffer in a room and nailed the windows shut. Scheaffer’s daughter says she rescued him after tracking him down months later.


Authorities said when they arrested Petrucci on Friday they found animal feces throughout the house and estimated thousands of dollars in health code violations. Animal welfare agents removed cats, raccoons and a dog from her house.


Police said Petrucci was fined in the past for hoarding dozens of animals and for health code violations.


Scheaffer’s daughter said a two-month search for her father led her to Petrucci’s home. She said she learned Sept. 13 that her father, who suffers from the early stages of dementia, was locked in the room and she helped him escape to an undisclosed location.


“There were a lot of times I couldn’t sleep,” Lynanne Scheaffer told WFMZ-TV. “Anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, pretty much everything.”


Scheaffer told police on Oct. 19 that Petrucci locked him in the room from July to September and fed him once a day.


Petrucci was arraigned before District Justice Michael Leonardziak on charges of false imprisonment and recklessly endangering another person. She was transported to Berks County Prison, where she was being held on $100,000 bail.


Leonardziak said Petrucci also owes $12,000 in fines for other offenses. She is awaiting trial on 25 previous animal-cruelty charges.


Harry D. Brown III, head of the Animal Rescue League of Berks County, said Petrucci has already cost the league more than $100,000 in medical expenses to treat 22 stray cats seized from her home June 29.


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