ELBERT - Two people from Elbert, who deputies describe as 'hoarders,' will appear in court tomorrow to answer to 19 new felony animal abuse charges placed against them.
David Stantoine and Christine O'Rourke were initially charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty and with felony animal abuse in July 2012 after investigators found dead goats and 42 emaciated animals on their property.
"I don't think they ever meant to intentionally harm the animals. I think they got overwhelmed," said Amy Fordyce, an investigator with the Elbert County Sheriff's Department.
Because of that reason and the fact their other animals were in good health, the pair were only put on unsupervised probation and were told they could still keep their pets that weren't emaciated.
For their part, deputies did check in on the property four times over the last couple of months. Every time they stopped by, the animals looked healthy. But then, a few weeks ago, they noticed something dramatically different.
Eighteen of the animals the pair was allowed to keep went from being pudgy to rib-popping skinny, all within a matter of weeks. On top of that, investigators found a dead horse and a dead llama on the property.
"You would hope that they would start taking care of those animals after being charged with so many felonies," Fordyce said.
Financial hardship was the excuse given to deputies by Stantoine and O'Rourke. Deputies told the pair they'd help them several times, but Stantoine and O'Rourke declined. Now they're facing 18 new felony charges.
There are currently 32 animals on their property that are in good condition as of Friday.
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