The husband of the Columbia woman on trial for animal cruelty charges testified Friday that he, not his wife, was responsible for feeding and caring for the 40 dead animals found inside a Columbia townhouse leased to the couple in January.
Brady Decker, 39, of Columbia, testified in Howard County Circuit Court that his wife Elizabeth Lindenau, who is facing 60 charges of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse, moved out of the townhouse in the spring of 2011 and had not visited it since August.
Decker shuttled back and forth between the two residences for a few months before moving out of the townhouse himself in October, he said.
The dead animals, which included birds, cats, rabbits, a guinea pig and a snake, were discovered by the property manager on Jan. 16.
According to a veterinarian's testimony, the majority of the 20 animals Lindenau is being charged with in the case were emaciated and likely died as a result of dehydration.
Decker, who was indicted on 69 charges of animal cruelty, neglect and abuse in July, testified that he found two birds dead inside the home, located in the 9600 block of Lambeth Court, in the months leading up to Jan. 16, but concealed the deaths from his wife.
Decker, an employee of NASA, said he stopped entering the residence to feed the animals after he found the second bird, a favorite Cockatoo, dead inside the townhouse in mid-December.
"He was like my child, like this other part of me," an emotional Decker said on the witness stand. "He meant so much to me and I couldn't deal with the fact that he was gone."
Decker said he routinely drove to the townhouse following the death of the cockatoo, but couldn't bring himself to enter.
"I couldn't go back in. ... I completely lost it," Decker said.
Decker said he entered the townhouse once more on Christmas Eve to retrieve a pair of binoculars for his wife, but did not feed the animals during that visit.
Decker said he concealed the deaths from his wife because he felt she would leave him if she found out.
"I was waiting for the right moment, and it turns out there wasn't one," Decker said. "I felt it would be the end of our relationship if I told her."
Decker also testified that on the night of Jan. 16, he considering committing suicide by driving his pickup truck into a lake.
Later that evening, Decker said, he was admitted to Howard County General Hospital and stayed in the hospital's mental health ward for seven days.
When the trial resumes on Tuesday morning, the prosecution will get an opportunity to cross-examine Decker.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday after four days and 17 witnesses.