A woman being sought by police for questioning in the deaths of 40 animals found at a Columbia townhouse Monday was a former employee of the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
A letter addressed from Howard County police to Beth Lindenau was left at the residence where police removed the dead animals, including some inside of a freezer. Police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn would not confirm the woman's name but said it is police policy to leave addressed letters at homes to inform residents if animals have been impounded.
Llewellyn said police contacted the resident of the home in the 9600 block of Lambeth Court on Wednesday and requested that she come in for an interview. No charges have been filed, she said.
Kate Hendrickson, media relations manager at the National Aquarium, confirmed that Lindenau worked there from December 2004 until November 2009, adding that the "aquarium has no professional association with Ms. Lindenau and cannot confirm any of the alleged information in this investigation." The aquarium's policies prevent the release of any other information about her employment, such as the reason why she left, Hendrickson said.
A blog post on the aquarium's website from 2009 indicates that Lindenau was an animal trainer there.
Llewellyn said police would likely not decide whether to file charges until after they have results of lab reports and pathology tests, as well as information about how and when the animals died. All of that is expected to take a couple of weeks.
Officers were called to the townhouse on Lambeth Court about 2:30 p.m. Monday after a property manager reported odors coming from the home.
They found 19 dead animals inside a freezer, including birds, rabbits, a guinea pig and a hermit crab, police said. Officers found 21 more dead birds, cats, rabbits and a snake inside cages or loose in the home with no food or water. Four other animals were found alive.
Pet food was inside the home, but it was not accessible to the caged and roaming pets, investigators said, and power and heat had been turned off.
Several neighbors at the Lambeth Court townhouse said they had suspected that animals were inside the house and not being looked after, but officials with the county's health department said they never received any complaints at that address.
Llewellyn said investigators were unable to locate the woman for several days because she was associated with several addresses in Howard County.
Police are investigating whether she had been involved with a nonprofit animal rescue group.
"We'll know more if she comes in to talk to us," she said.
Neighbors in a subdivision on Hundred Drums Row in Guilford said Lindenau had been living at that address since at least November.
No one answered the door, but dogs barked inside the home. Parked in the driveway was a trailer for the Bailey Foundation, a Columbia-based organization that rescues birds, rehabilitates them and places them in adopted homes.
Neighbors said they saw Lindenau as recently as last weekend. She moved in after her parents, who lived in the home for at least 25 years, relocated to Georgia, according to the neighbors.
When the weather was warmer, neighbors said, Lindenau would take birds in cages onto the front lawn of the two-story brick and vinyl house for sunlight and fresh air. The dogs and birds seemed well cared for, the neighbors said.
Martin Mersereau, director of the emergency response division for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said collecting dead animals in a freezer could be a sign of animal hoarding.
Brent Whitaker, director of biological programs for the National Aquarium, said the aquarium is deeply concerned for the animals and is committed to excellence in animal care.
"We have offered our Marine Animal Rescue Team to authorities to ensure the health and safety of any animals that it has the professional expertise to do so," Hendrickson said in an email.