EDGEWATER, Fla. – An Edgewater police officer described the home three children and hundreds of animals were living in as "the absolute worst" living conditions he had ever seen.
The children and 245 animals were removed from an Edgewater home Sunday and the three adults at the home have been arrested, police said.
Officers were called Sunday to the 2700 block of Royal Palm Drive after one of the suspects called for a well-being check on the children, according to the arrest report.
Police said they found the children, ages 8, 9 and 10, and the animals, including a few dead and decomposing animals, at the home.
Police said rotting food, animal feces and urine were present throughout the home. Officer Anthony Binz wrote in his report there was nowhere in the home to walk without stepping on debris or animal feces.
A neighbor told News 6 they knew something wasn't right.
"Their kids were running around in the street with no clothes on, basically just underwear," Chris Hurley said. "I just feel (greatly) for the kids and the animals."
Binz described the conditions as "the absolute worst residence I have been to regarding the overwhelming odor of ammonia, animal hoarding and just the everyday living conditions in which these three juveniles have had to endure."
Melissa Hamilton, 49, Greg Nelson, 57, and Susan Nelson, 43, face three counts of child abuse and 66 counts of animal cruelty, according to police.
According to the arrest report, Nelson told police he decided to end his relationship with his wife, Susan Nelson, and live-in girlfriend, Hamilton, and wanted to take his three children. Nelson said his wife would not let him take the children, and he called police for a well-being check because he believed the home was uninhabitable for the children.
When officers arrived, Susan Nelson told police her home was a mess and she was in the process of cleaning it and rehoming the animals. Officers wrote in the report they could smell "the overwhelming odor of ammonia while standing in the driveway."
The bedroom in which the children were living was "ankle deep" in garbage and included a bunk bed with no top mattress, police said.
The children were removed from the home by the Department of Children and Families and were placed with a family member, officials said.
While being taken into custody, Hamilton told police she had taken 17 Xanax pills to end her life and she was taken to a hospital under the Baker Act for treatment, according to the report. Hamilton was booked into the Volusia County Jail on Monday morning.
Greg Nelson complained of chest pains and was also taken to the hospital. He was not in the Volusia County Jail as of Monday afternoon.
Susan Nelson had a first appearance in Volusia County court Monday. She was granted pretrial release and ordered not to have contact with the children.
The animals were taken to the Edgewater Animal Shelter, which is in need of help. Officers said the animals were flea infested, some had mange, and did not have food or water in their cages.
The animals included cats, dogs, bearded dragons, rats, mice, hamsters, bunnies and groundhogs, according to the report.
"The home was just atrocious," said Amada Leclear, from the Edgewater Animal Shelter. This has been one of the worst I’ve ever seen. I don’t understand how someone can devalue a life that much."
Edgewater police told News 6 authorities have been called to the home five times in the past year, but they were only made aware about the bad conditions Sunday during that well-being check.
Donations to the animal shelter can be dropped off at 605 Mango Tree Drive in Edgewater.
- Dogs: 4
- Cats: 2
- Guinea pigs: 9 plus 1 deceased
- Rabbits: 12
- Hamsters: 4
- Sugar gliders: 10
- Birds: 14
- Gecko: 1
- Tortoise: 1
- Hedge hog: 1
- Bearded dragons: 7
- Birds: 14
- Leopard spotted gecko: 1
- Mice: 95
- Rats: 60 adults 23 babies