Remember the room filled with pet cans in the classic documentary (and also HBO dramatization) Grey Gardens? Turns out Santa Ana has it's own version of this–times three!–as the discovery of a
73 72-year-old woman's body on her porch ultimately uncovered two dogs, dozens and dozens of feral cats and disgusting hoarder conditions there and at her two other homes in town.
Rita Corpin retired in 2010 after 48 years with the Garden Grove Unified School District–including the past three decades teaching history at La Quinta High School. Transparent California indicates her pension was $120,806.52.
She'd also served on Santa Ana's Planning Commission and as a neighborhood activist, was active with the Historical Society and turns up in media coverage of the annual Thanksgiving feasts at the Honda Center, where tens of thousands have been treated to free, full holiday meals served by volunteers and members of the Anaheim Ducks. Corpin once explained she'd go every year because she was alone and liked the company.
Her body was discovered by her gardener around 11 p.m. Tuesday on the porch of her home in the 1400 block of South Rosewood Avenue in Santa Ana. Believed to have died of natural causes, Corpin was sitting in a wheelchair with a cat carrier in her lap. A live kitten was inside.
Her home and yard were covered in garbage, with some piles as tall as Mickey Rooney. Workers had to don hazmat outfits to remove the debris, which also proved to be a requirement at Corpin's two other homes on Myrtle Street.
Two pit bulls on the Rosewood property were turned over to animal control. Traps had to be set for the cats, whose numbers may top 50. No animals were found at the Myrtle homes, but a neighbor claims Corpin would often come by and leave cat food in bowls.
Santa Ana Police spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna confirmed animal control had received a half-dozen complaints over the past decade about stray animals on Rosewood. Complaints about the condition of Corpin's home would have gone to a different city department, he added.
It was Corpin's primary residence but Bertagna told City News Service she apparently slept in a truck parked outside "because of the condition of the house."
"I think she had a love for animals," he added, "and, unfortunately with hoarders, it grows and grows and eventually the person loses control.''