WITTMANN, Ariz. -- A 78-year-old man described as an animal hoarder has been found dead in his Wittmann mobile home and authorities say he was partially eaten by his pets.
Maricopa County sheriff's officials said the body of Jerry Brown was discovered Tuesday morning and he likely died about a week ago.
Neighbor Robert Halstead said he found Brown dead on the bed. Halstead said he hadn’t seen Brown in a week and he became concerned.
"When I went up to the house the smell was overwhelming," said Halstead, who had never been in the house before. "There’s 50 to 75 cats. There’s feces on the ground, anywhere from 6 inches to a foot deep."
Halstead said he could not recognize Brown because the body was so decomposed. He also said there was a gun laying on the bed beside him.
"You couldn’t tell if he had inflicted any wounds on himself or died of natural causes," said Halstead.
No cause of death has been determined.
Every room of the home was filled with boxes from floor to ceiling, according to Halstead.
The home is near Jomax Road and 207th Avenue.
"This came as a big shock to us," said Brown’s daughter-in-law, Cheryl Brown. "We were notified by the sheriff’s department yesterday that he had passed away. Obviously we had no clue of the conditions out here."
Brown said authorities told her that it would be the family's responsibility to remove the animals from the property.
She doesn't know how that will happen. She said her husband is in the hospital with stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma and she has an autoimmune disorder.
"There's so much going through my mind I wouldn't know where to begin," said Brown. "Obviously we wouldn't to see any of them (animals) harmed if that was possible but we're just really not in a place in our lives to foot a huge bill to try and have the animals taken care of so that we can clean up the property and get it suitable for the neighbors and for us to figure out what we're going to do from that."
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said his deputies are working with officials from the Arizona Humane Society to rescue the animals and take them to a facility for care and keeping. One of the animals is a 4-month-old black kitten that is missing both eyes.