See Update No. 2 at the end of this post on the snake death toll rising even after pythons were removed from the home. Update No. 1 identified the homeowner.
ORIGINAL POST, JAN. 29, 8:52 A.M.: Santa Ana cops serving a search warrant on a house in the 2900 block of North Fernwood Drive this morning made a disturbing find: 300 to 400 pythons, some alive, some dead and some decaying, according to authorities.
Officers had been sent there because of neighborhood complaints about the stench and–oh yeah–they also found rats, mice and what was left of rodents used to feed the snakes.
Haz-mat crews, in full protective uniform and gas-mask mode, are at the residence at this hour removing all sorts of nasty live and dead things. It's a living …
The resident of the place has been arrested on suspicion of animal cruelty, according to police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the department spokesman.
A neighbor told KTLA Morning News today that a large van routinely pulls up to the house to deliver rats and mice. He knew the resident had snakes but never imagined there were so many.
The odor coming from the place was so unbearable, the young fellow said, he could not play basketball or hold outdoor parties at his house.
UPDATE NO. 1, JAN. 29, 11:29 A.M.: Police have identified the 53-year-old man who kept 300 to 400 mostly dead snakes in his Santa Ana home as William Fredrick Buchman, a sixth grade teacher at Mariners Elementary School in Newport Beach.
"The smell of death" came from the house where the snakes, mostly pythons, were kept in crates, boxes and allowed to roam around the five-bedroom home, police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the Santa Ana agency's spokesman, told City News Service.
It is unclear if Buchman used the snakes for teaching, according to Bertagna, who added it appeared the reptile population just "grew and grew and got out of control."
Some snakes are reportedly worth thousands of dollars, especially some with unusual patterns on their skins due to cross-breeding.
Laura Boss, spokeswoman for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, issued this statement today: "At this time, Mr. Buchman's arrest is a police matter and does not
involve the school or district. The district has assisted the school in providing an appropriate teacher substitute to cover Mr. Buchman's class until he resolves his personal matter."
Neighbors at the scene reportedly said Buchman had become increasingly depressed since the recent death of his mother.
UPDATE NO. 2, JAN. 31, 9:30 A.M.: Even though more than 400 snakes were removed from William Fredrick Buchman's home Wednesday, the death toll rises as animal experts try to nurse ailing reptiles, according to police.
Eleven more snakes have died, leaving 171 alive and 255 dead since the search warrant was served, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna, the department spokesman.
"Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services Division wishes to thank all of the citizens and rescue groups who have called expressing their concerns and desires to adopt snakes seized in a residence here in Santa Ana," reads an email blast from the agency. "All of the snakes have been released to the Southern California Herpetology Association & Rescue which is providing housing and care under the guidance of a local veterinarian."
Meanwhile, there are reports elsewhere that Buchman is a popular teacher at Mariners Elementary School, where he was placed on leave. Police released him on his own recognizance.