Pamela Wykle was known in her Herndon neighborhood by the cats that visited her home. She always kept her garage door cracked just enough, so they could creep in for a meal, a neighbor said.
“I think she really cared about the cats,” said Wendy Frederick, who lives across the street.
Then, something apparently changed. Around the holidays, Wykle left her home and probably never returned, Fairfax police said. Inside, the 27 calicos, tabbies and tuxedos she had given names – including Lady, Scout, Taz, Rascal – slowly grew weaker and died.
Fairfax County police charged Wykle, 50, with 10 counts of animal cruelty and other offenses Sunday after she turned herself in at the McLean district police station. She had been staying with family members in the area, police said.
“Officers are classifying this as a hoarding situation,” said Lucy Caldwell, a Fairfax County police spokeswoman.
Police declined to discuss why Wykle allegedly abandoned the cats, but experts said such behavior would be out of the ordinary for most types of animal hoarders.
“Many times people will have a lot of animals and they often have difficulty caring for them all, but I’ve never seen a case where they were abandoned,” said Michael Congleton, chairman of the Fairfax County Hoarding Task Force. Congleton is not working on the Wykle case.
Police discovered the rotting carcasses of the cats — some of them feral — in the home in the 1300 block of Summerfield Drive last Tuesday. An animal control officer chased two loose dogs into Wykle’s backyard, according to a search warrant. The officer went to the front door to get permission to enter the property, but got no response. Through a window, he noticed a “large number of cat food cans, hair and cat beds” around the house.
When the officer went to the rear of the home and looked through a sliding glass door, he noticed what appeared to be cat skeletons, according to the search warrant. The officer then called Herndon Police, who searched the home fearing Wykle had fallen ill.
Officers in white hazmat suits and respirators spent the night cleaning up the house, Caldwell said. Television footage from the scene showed officers removing large, black plastic trash bags from the front door of the home. The Herndon zoning board condemned the home.
Fairfax County and Herndon police officials said they have no record of previous calls to Wykle’s home. When reached by phone, Wykle’s father declined to comment on the charges. Wykle faces six counts of animal cruelty, two counts of failure to properly dispose of dead animals and two counts of maintaining unsanitary conditions in her home.
Wendy Frederick, the neighbor, said the neighborhood had no idea what was going on.
“There were no red flags,” she said.