Santa Ana police made one grim discovery after another Wednesday as they moved among three homes owned by a woman who was found dead on her porch with a kitten in a carrier resting on her lap.
Cpt. Anthony Bertagna said possibly more than 40 stray cats were found meandering around one of the homes, which was hidden behind overgrown brush that also hid two cars.
The woman, who appeared to have been in her 70s, was spotted by a gardener on her porch in the 1400 block of South Rosewood Avenue on Tuesday night, Bertagna said. The home appeared to be her primary residence and he noted it appeared to be in the worst condition of her three properties. Foul play is not suspected in her death.
"There was so much there it took them three hours to remove the body," Bertagna said.
Crews had to remove two cars, mountains of debris and cut through overgrown trees and vegetation to make enough space to move her body.
"They had to literally crawl through vegetation" to get to the woman, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Steve Concialdi said. "There were a number of cats running around. It took our guys quite a bit of effort to get to her."
A HAZMAT team also had to be called in, he added.
Authorities spent several hours navigating through the Rosewood property to see whether any animals were distressed, taking two dogs away to a shelter.
The woman was a retired schoolteacher but her identity has not been released pending the notification of next of kin, Bertagna said.
By Wednesday morning, authorities were busy trying to clear away the debris from the woman's two other homes -- both on Myrtle Street.
"That looks like a dead cat," Bertagna said to a reporter as he walked through one of the Myrtle Street homes. "Not as bad as the first house, but certainly a problem."