A Columbia woman was found not guilty of 18 counts of animal neglect by a jury at Howard County Circuit Court on Friday, after a lengthy trial in which her husband took responsibility for the dead animals.
After the verdict was read, Elizabeth Lindenau went to the back of courtroom where her husband, Brady Decker, was sitting and gave him a hug, according to Howard County state's attorney spokesperson Wayne Kirwan.
Lindenau, her attorney and Decker declined to comment immediately after the verdict was read and quickly left the courthouse.
In a press release issued by Jonathan Smith, Lindenau's attorney, about an hour after the verdict was issued, Lindenau stated, "I am relieved that the jury was willing to listen to the facts, and see past the emotional nature of this tragedy... I loved all of the animals, and it broke my heart that they died."
"There was massive evidence of Ms. Lindenau's innocence from the very beginning," wrote Smith. "The prosecutors chose to turn a blind eye to the truth... This case consumed twelve trial days; sixteen county citizens sacrificed their time to hear the case. These resources should have been devoted to prosecuting violent criminals."
Assitant state's attorney Tricia Cecil said the verdict was not justice for the animals.
"I think we put forward the best case we had," said Cecil who prosecuted the case with assistant state's attorney Tiffany Vaira.
Judge Louis A. Becker on 22 counts of animal cruelty before closing statements began on Thursday afternoon.
Lindenau was first arrested and charged with animal cruelty after police officers in her and her husband's Columbia townhouse on Lambeth Court on Jan. 16.
Lindenau's trial began on Aug. 22. Decker testified that the animals . He said he stopped feeding the animals in mid-December after one of his beloved cockatoos died.
Decker was charged with 69 counts of animal cruelty in July and is currently awaiting trial.
on Tuesday and Wednesday that she had moved out of the Columbia townhouse in April after a dispute with a neighbor. She relocated to her parents' house on Hundred Drums Row and claimed to have only returned to the townhouse one time, to feed the animals being stored there while her husband was away on business in August.
The couple kept birds, cats and rabbits at the home.
Lindenau testified the animals had died until the day of the police raid when Decker told her. That day she said she took Decker to the hospital and admitted him to a mental ward after he said he was going to kill himself. He stayed in the hospital for seven days.
In closing statements on Thursday evening, Cecil described Lindenau as a person with money troubles, who had too many animals and was afraid people would discover the mess she and her husband had created.
Cecil described Lindenau as the one who acquired animal after animal with little thought as to how she would take care of them. She described Decker as "the helper" and "the muscle."
"Brady Decker was not the type of person that would be tasked with taking care of 20-plus animals and the defendant knew this," said Cecil. "If these animals were so beloved, so cherished, why did the defendant leave them behind?"
Lindenau's attorney, Smith, described the state's case as "more of a persecution than a prosecution."
He said there was no direct evidence linking Lindenau to the Lambeth Court townhouse at any time before the deaths could have been prevented.
Smith said Decker was overwhelmed with taking care of the animals, snapped and was too afraid to explain to his wife what had happened.
"[Decker] knew the implications on his wife and marriage as a result of what he did," said Smith.
The verdict brings an end to a trial that has gone on since Aug. 22, encompassing 12 days of testimony and a day of jury deliberations.
Many of the animals that died in the house were adopted by Lindenau, according to testimony during the trial. Lindenau, 40, was serving as an executive director of a bird rescue organization before the dead animals were discovered.