A sixth-grade Newport Beach teacher has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty in a hoarding case that led to the deaths of about 260 snakes and was immediately ordered to perform 100 hours of community service.
William Frederick Buchman of Santa Ana, who was given credit for two days served in jail, has already paid $17,020.84 to the Southern California Herpetology Rescue organization for the disposal of the snakes, necropsies and the rescue of the ones that survived, said Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Malone.
Police went to Buchman's home to investigate the "smell of death" from neighbors in the 2900 block of North Fernwood Drive in January. Authorities found 240 dead snakes in the home with 20 later dying, Malone said.
Of the 162 that survived, all have found new homes in schools and a zoo in Big Bear, Malone said.
Buchman, an only child, was grief-stricken following the death of his mother, who lived with him, his attorney, Paul Meyer, said. The two bonded over their affinity for the snakes, Meyer said.
"Mr. Buchman suffered a severe depression after the long terminal illness and death of his mother in the home where he cared for her," Meyer said. "The depression paralyzed him and he tragically neglected the reptiles which had been a family hobby. He has cooperated with therapy, paid full restitution in advance, donated all reptile equipment to a rescue group, repaid the city, and remodeled his home. He has no animals in his care. He is committed to continuing community service."
Buchman was initially charged with felony animal abuse by a caretaker, but Meyer said the case boiled down to neglect, not abuse. In the form Buchman signed acknowledging his guilt he said, "I unlawfully and knowingly failed to provide proper care to animals in my care, resulting in life endangering condition(s) to the animals."
Buchman said he would like to do his community service at the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa if it is approved by the county, according to Meyer and Malone.
Buchman has started a court-ordered 16-session set of animal cruelty classes, Malone said.
Now that his case is resolved, Meyer said he will try to help Buchman get back to work teaching at the Newport Beach school, where he is on leave.
He cannot own, possess, or live with pets for five years, Malone said.
Buchman donated his reptile cages to a resuce organization that are valued at $25,000, Meyer said.--City News Service