The Columbia woman on trial for animal neglect the past two weeks was found not guilty Friday by a Howard County jury.
Elizabeth Lindenau, 41, of the 9400 block of Hundred Drums Row in Columbia, was found not guilty on all 18 charges of animal neglect for failing to provide proper drink to 18 animals found dead inside her Columbia townhouse in January.
"I am relieved that the jury was willing to listen to the facts, and see past the emotional nature of this tragedy," Lindenau said in a statement. "The criminal justice system works. I loved all of the animals, and it broke my heart that they died. I am glad this nightmare for me is over."
Lindenau's defense attorney, Jonathan Smith, said: "There was massive evidence of Ms. Lindenau's innocence from the very beginning. Ms. Lindenau has devoted her entire life to rescuing and caring for hundreds of animals. Many of these animals would have been euthanized by Howard County Animal Control had she not rescued them and found caring homes."
After the verdict was read, an emotional Lindenau embraced her husband, Brady Decker, who was indicted on the same 69 charges of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect as his wife in July.
During the trial, Decker testified that he was responsible for taking care of the 20 animals Lindenau was charged with in the case. He said he stopped visiting the townhouse approximately a month before the 40 dead animals were found on Jan. 16.
Lindenau reaffirmed her husband's testimony that he was responsible, and said she had no knowledge the animals were being neglected.
During the trial, Judge Louis A. Becker III acquitted Lindenau of 42 of the original 60 charges pertaining to animal cruelty and abuse.
The prosecution dropped the other nine charges before the trial began Aug. 22.
"It's a wonderful surprise and I'm happy," Wulf Lindenau, the defendant's father, said after the verdict. "Her mother and I are proud of her sitting though all of that."
Prosecutors Tiffany Vaira and Tricia Cecil said they were surprised by the acquittals and felt they presented a complete case.
"We were disappointed in the verdict, but respect the jury's decision," Cecil said. "We put forward the best case we had."
The prosecutors said they did not feel the verdict was justice for the animals.
The prosecutors would not comment on the case against Brady Decker, which is scheduled to go to jury trial on Jan. 2.
None of the jurors would comment on the verdict.