ST. BERNARD PARISH, La. -- Deputies arrested a man and booked him with 32 counts of cruelty to animals after dozens of dead dogs were found inside of his freezer at an Arabi home, according to the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff James Pohlmann said there were no obvious signs of trauma on the dogs and the suspect, Juan Toledo, denied killing them.
Toledo, 52, was arrested late Tuesday night. The sheriff's office said Toledo claimed the dogs just died and that rather than bury them, he stored them in the refrigerator or freezer.
"He's never there. I wouldn't expect him to have dogs or animals there," said Monique Gleason of her neighbor's house where investigators uncovered the unthinkable.
"Thirty-two dead dogs, 29 of which were puppies, inside a refrigerator freezer," said Col. John Doran with the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Office. Investigators say they made the discovery inside Juan Toledo's Arabi house on Tuesday night.
Neighbors say they rarely saw him on Parish Drive or the dogs. Though animal control had been called out before. The sheriff's office confirmed that the parish department came out to Toledo's house a year ago.
"He use to walk 'em but he stopped walking them," said Gleason.
The sheriff's office says Toledo's ex-girlfriend tipped them off about dead dogs. Toledo could not explain to investigators why he was storing them.
"He basically said he was keeping these dogs, raising these dogs and they had puppies. At some point they died. He intended on burying them but he hadn't gotten around to it and buried them in the freezer," said Col. Doran.
A sheriff's office spokesman said Toledo was arrested because either his actions, or simple neglect resulted in the deaths. No living animals were found at the home and the remains of the deceased dogs were turned over to animal control.
The sheriff's office said that Toledo was out on a $50,000 bond for an arrest in St. Bernard Parish on July 1. Toledo was booked with aggravated batter of a woman who was said to be his girlfriend at the time.
According to the sheriff's office, Toledo has served time in prison in the late 1980s and early 1990s for burglary. Also, he was arrested in New Orleans accused of murdering his wife in 1983, but apparently was never convicted, Sheriff Pohlmann said.
The woman Toledo allegedly beat, who broke up with him after the incident, she said, claimed to find the dead dogs in the refrigerator and attached freezer when she went to the residence Tuesday evening to get things she left there.
She called authorities and Toledo was found by sheriff’s deputies about 8 p.m. while walking on West St. Bernard Highway, not far from his residence, and went back to his home for questioning, Sheriff Pohlmann said.
The suspect signed a consent form for deputies to enter and after the dead animals were found sheriff’s detectives interviewed the suspect.
Twenty-nine of the dogs were puppies, some only several inches long and possibly only a week-old, Sheriff Pohlmann said, and three were older dogs of possible mixed German shepherd breed.
For one Arabi woman hearing about what her neighbor is now accused of is difficult to believe because she didn't see anything unusual.
"Its unbelievable because Juan is a nice guy. He works hard. You wouldn't think he'd do something like that but who knows what he's going through," added Gleason.
A judge will set bond Thursday morning for Toldeo, now being held without bond in St. Bernard Parish Prison.