Correction: William Tinkler does not own the home. He merely rents it.
By Tara García Mathewson
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Families living next door to William Tinkler on the 200 block of Villa Street in Elgin definitely noticed the smell of dead animals -- but no one imagined the scenario police discovered Wednesday.
What neighbors thought was just especially foul-smelling garbage, Elgin police, code enforcement and animal control officers identified as 43 animals -- mostly cats -- in varying states of decay in a van in Tinkler's backyard.
Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said the final count was adjusted down from the 60 animals officers estimated Wednesday. Two dead opossums also were found in Tinkler's home, which today was condemned, Theriault said.
Alicia Heredia has lived in an apartment next door to Tinkler for about three years. She had her doors open Thursday, letting a fresh breeze air out her house -- an action she said she avoided on the hottest days of summer when the stench from Tinkler's home was impossible to ignore.
Heredia said she never called the police about the smell but did worry about the effect it would have on her 11-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son.
"We didn't know where the smell was coming from," she said. "But now we know."
Neighbors described Tinkler, 60, as a man who kept to himself and rarely left home.
Erin Kidd, another resident in the apartment building next door, said Tinkler is very protective of his cats and didn't like when neighborhood kids tried to pet them. The mother of two -- 4-year-old Brihanna Wheller-Kidd and 9-month-old Sydney Kidd -- was disgusted with Wednesday's discovery.
Like Heredia, Kidd never called the police but certainly smelled the decaying animals. Realizing the extent of the situation, Kidd said the van's continued presence in Tinkler's backyard makes her nervous.
"I don't want to get sick," she said. "I don't want that around my baby or (Brihanna). The kids play outside all the time."
Elgin code enforcement manager Vince Cuchetto was part of a group of officers present Thursday to condemn Tinkler's property after an inspection revealed the house was too unsanitary to live in. The code department issued a 24-hour notice to clean the house Wednesday, but Tinkler did not make enough progress to avoid the latest action.
By law, Tinkler is not allowed in his home unless he is actively cleaning it out. While it is condemned it is under city control, according to Cuchetto.
Cuchetto said the goal of the code department is to ensure a clean, safe, healthy environment in which people can live -- not to keep people from their homes.
"We want them to eliminate the problems they were condemned for and get them back in their houses," Cuchetto said.
Tinkler declined to comment for this story, but officials said he was cooperating with their investigation and agreeing to clean his home.
During the police investigation, Tinkler said he put the animals in his van because of a desire to preserve them, according to Theriault. Based on the varying levels of decay of the animals, Theriault said Tinkler had been saving them for quite some time.
Tinkler is due in court Nov. 2 for criminal charges of cruelty to animals, violation of owner's duties and violation of the dead animal disposal act.
He is also expected to appear next week during a forfeiture hearing where a judge will determine if the case reaches the level of hoarding. If it does, officers will be able to go back and capture the rest of Tinkler's live cats, four of which were taken Wednesday to Golf Rose Animal Hospital in Schaumburg. They are all being treated for various infections.
Theriault said the cats' futures will be up to the animal hospital and could include adoption or euthanasia. Because some feline diseases are extremely contagious, adoption may not be an option.
Residents suspicious about neighborhood smells or treatment of local pets should call the police department at (847) 289-2700. This case was reported by a city contractor doing brush removal on Villa Street.