The 53-year-old son of an elderly woman whose filthy Villa Park home was overrun with cats -- both living and dead -- is under investigation for elder abuse, Orange County sheriff's officials said Thursday.
Paramedics called to the home this month found Mary Maloney, 76, lying outside on a blanket; she was covered with sores and skin rashes, authorities said. When deputies investigated, they found cat feces 2 feet high in places, urine-soaked walls and carpets, and trash everywhere.
A dead cat was found in a piano.
A cat's skull was on a kitchen counter.
In all, 16 cats were found alive and four dead.
"We're talking about some of the most deplorable conditions we've ever seen," sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino said.
In some rooms, concrete poked through the carpeting, and investigators had to pull back cobwebs and debris as they inspected the home, Amormino said.
It was unknown how long the home had been in such a deteriorated state.
The city red-tagged and padlocked the house on Center Drive -- across the street from Villa Park Elementary School -- and will hold a public hearing next month to determine if it should be demolished.
Maloney, who is listed as the owner, lived in the house for 20 years but recently became bedridden and was under the care of her son, Kevin. He could not be reached for comment.
Neighbors described Mary Maloney as "feisty and very opinionated" in her senior years.
She had moved to the neighborhood with her husband two decades ago.
He died of cancer, leaving her to care for the home and her cats mostly alone.
Her son paid a gardener to trim the lawn every two months and a crew to do a major cleanup outside the home once a year.
Although there have been bad odors emanating from the home for years, especially in summer, neighbors said they did not complain to the city.
They said Kevin Maloney visited frequently and brought his mother food or would take her out to dinner.
Kevin Maloney told the Orange County Register that he lives in Los Alamitos and that his mother was unable to maintain the home.
"She got old and couldn't take care of it," he said. "It was a nice place, once. It's better off to tear it down."
County Animal Control removed the cats, including some with paws that looked bleached or burned, possibly by urine, Amormino said.
"You want to know the odd thing?" Amormino said. "This is in Villa Park, in a nice neighborhood."
With 6,251 residents, Villa Park is the county's smallest municipality and calls itself the "hidden jewel" on the city website. It's known for quiet neighborhoods and a low crime rate.
Mary Maloney's home is in a neighborhood where residences range in value from $990,000 to $1.8 million, according to Zillow.com.
The property was tagged by the city, after deputies first inspected, as uninhabitable because it posed a severe public health threat, said Ken Domer, Villa Park city manager.
He said the home had no heating or air conditioning.
"It had running water, but only two faucets in the house worked -- one in a sink in the master bedroom, and one in a bathtub," he said.
City officials were as shocked as neighbors to hear about the deplorable conditions.
Domer said many people had expressed concern for the elderly woman, who is now in a senior-care facility.
"There's been an outpouring of concern and offers of assistance," Domer said.
"It really is a tragic event for the elderly woman."