Tony Rackauckas, District Attorney
401 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701
For Immediate Release
Susan Kang Schroeder
FIVE FAMILY MEMBERS CHARGED WITH ENDANGERING TWO CHILDREN IN URINE
AND FECES-INFESTED HOUSE WITH 110 CATS
SANTA ANA – A family of five adults has been charged with exposing two children to severely unsanitary conditions by living in a urine and feces-filled home with 110 cats. The five defendants are Sharon Lynn Howe, 65; her husband John Ed Howe, 68; her daughter Kerri Lynn Howe Moreno, 44; Kerri Moreno’s husband Jessy Moreno, 41; and Kerri Moreno’s daughter Courtney Lynn Howe Perez, 23.
All five are charged with two felony counts each of child endangerment. Sharon Howe and Courtney Perez are charged with an additional felony count of animal cruelty and face a sentence ranging from probation up to eight years in state prison if convicted. John Howe, Kerri Moreno, and Jessy Moreno face a sentence ranging from probation up to seven years and four months in state prison if convicted. They are expected to be arraigned Jan. 18, 2012, at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. The time and Department are to be determined.
Overview of the Case
Sharon Howe and her granddaughter Courtney Perez are accused of using their Santa Ana home to house unwanted cats. They are accused of obtaining many these cats from animal shelters under the pretense of operating a rescue organization to find the animals other permanent homes. The two defendants lived in the home with the other three adult defendants and two little girls, ages 6 and 12 years old.
All five defendants are accused of failing to protect and endangering the two children by having them to live in a severely unsanitary and unsafe environment. Sharon Howe and Courtney Perez are accused of also abusing the cats in their home by keeping them in an unsanitary environment and failing to provide food, water, and proper medical care.
Investigation of the Case
In February 2011, Santa Ana Police Department (SAPD) Animal Services Officers responded to the defendants’ home after receiving complaints from neighbors about the foul animal odor emanating from the residence. The responding officers arrived and observed from outside the home an intense odor of urine and feces and live and dead flies congregating around the windows and doors.
Inside the home, the five defendants are accused of allowing two child victims to live in extremely unsanitary, filthy conditions. The Animal Services Officers entered the home wearing paper masks, but had to leave after only a few minutes due to feeling ill as a result of the overwhelming smell. They returned wearing full hazmat gear including body suits and respirators.
The defendants are accused of keeping a grossly unhygienic home with feces and urine all over the floors and other surfaces, as well as cat hair, roaches, and flies. Severe ammonia exposure, which can be caused due to exposure to urine, can cause health problems for humans including respiratory illness, eye irritation, headaches, burns, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
The defendants are accused of having one of the child victims sleep in the living room on a couch, surrounded by cats and constantly exposed to the smell of feces and urine. They are accused of having the