Elizabeth Lindenau testified on Tuesday afternoon that the last time she entered the house on Lambeth Court where police discovered 40 dead animals in January was when she had to take care of the 15 to 20 animals being stored there while her husband was on a business trip in August 2011.
She said it was her husband's duty to care for the animals at the townhouse.
"He has never been able to explain what happened," said Lambeth.
Between April 2011 and January, Lindenau said she trusted her husband, Brady Decker, to take care of the animals. On Jan. 16, police officers discovered the 40 dead animals inside the home, most were the apparent victims of starvation and neglect. During that period Lindenau said she was living at her parent's house on Hundred Drums Row in Columbia.
Lindenau is charged with 40 counts of animal cruelty and has been on trial in Howard County Circuit Court since Aug. 22. She .
Decker, who testified Tuesday that he was supposed to take care of the animals that died, also testified that he was never interviewed by police before his wife's arrest. He was charged with 69 charges of animal cruelty in July and is awaiting trial.
Lindenau said she had stayed away from the Lambeth Court house because she had a longstanding disagreement with a neighbor that caused her stress and also because one of the birds being stored there, a cockatoo named Solomon, would scream extremely loudly if she entered the townhouse.
Decker testified on Tuesday that the couple had agreed to divide the duties to care for the pets. Decker said he was responsible for the animals at Lambeth Court, while Lindenau cared for 30 birds being stored at a volunteer's house. Those birds were acquired through the Bailey Foundation, a bird rescue organization which Lindenau ran.
Lindenau, 40, denied any knowledge of mistreatment of the birds, rabbits, cats or other animals being kept at Lambeth Court.
Decker said that after a beloved cockatoo named Mango died in mid-December, he couldn't bring himself to re-enter the townhouse. He said he "lost it" and only returned to fetch a pair of binoculars for his wife on Christmas Eve.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lindenau broke down sobbing several times as her defense attorney attempted to ask her questions.
The Night the Dead Animals Were Discovered
She said that on the night of Jan. 16, the day the police found the dead animals, she had asked Decker to fetch her one of her favorite cockatoos, Darwin. When Decker left the house around 7 p.m., Lindenau testified she went to MOM's Organic Market to pick up almonds, Darwin's favorite food. The defense attorney showed the court a copy of the credit card transaction from MOM's.
Lindenau said it was raining hard that night. Around 9:30 p.m., Lindenau said she had still not heard from Decker and started calling him. She said he did not answer the phone.
After multiple calls, Lindenau said Decker picked up the phone but she could only hear the rain and the windshield wipers. She testified that she couldn't hear Darwin and knew something was wrong.
She said her husband sounded distant, "He said, 'They're all gone, they're never coming back, they're never coming home.'"
In court, Lindenau repeated the words, sobbing, "They're never coming home, they're never coming home, they're never coming home."
Lindenau testifed Decker wouldn't tell her where he was so she drove around Columbia for 45 minutes until she found him. She said he told her he was going to drive his car off a bridge or into something.
She said she took him to the hospital and committed him to the behavioral/ psychiatric unit where he stayed for seven days. She said he was never able to explain to her what had happened to the animals.
Lindenau's Mother Takes the Stand
The mother of Elizabeth Lindenau, Catherine Lindenau, testified Tuesday that her daughter constantly cared for animals and had never mistreated any of them.
"My daughter is a natural born care-giver," said Lindenau who told stories of her daughter stopping on the side of the road to help injured animals, adopting strays and once showing up to a wedding party late in order to speak further with a squirrel expert.
She said Decker spent a significant amount of time helping Lindenau pack for the move, while also maintaining a job at NASA in Washington DC that took him away from the house from 6:30 a.m. to around 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
As defense attorney Jonathan Smith finished questioning Elizabeth Lindenau, he asked her if she had ever allowed any animals in her care to die, other than of natural causes. She said never.
He asked her if she had ever abused or neglected animals. She said she never had.
By that point, Lindenau could barely get out the words between her sobs and had to get up from the witness stand. She walked to the back of the courtroom and stared at a white wall, with the bailiff following behind her.
After that, the judge ended the trial for the day and announced it would continue at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday with the hope of closing arguments on Thursday.