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Accused animal hoarder, Mary Lou Petrucci, held ex-boyfriend, Harold Schaeffer, against his will for weeks, police say

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Dwayne Parker, Reporter, DParker@wfmz.com
Published On: Nov 30 2012 04:13:05 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 30 2012 10:47:52 PM CST

Police: Animal hoarder held man, 72, captive

READING, Pa. -

Residents of one Reading neighborhood called it a "House of Horrors." Police said an animal hoarder locked a 72-year-old man inside her home and held him captive for weeks. His family is relieved that she is behind bars.

Officials said under one roof you had dozens of animals running amok, code violations that could bring thousands of dollars in fines and for weeks, and a senior citizen was locked up in that house imprisoned.

The home is in the 1500 block of Mineral Springs Road in Reading. That's where the owner of the home, 55-year-old Mary Lou Petrucci, was arrested Friday. And police have charged her with false imprisonment of another person as well as reckless endangerment.

The family of the man police said was held prisoner for weeks inside that unlivable home spoke exclusively with 69 News.

The victim's daughter said it was a two months search just to find out that her father was being held captive. And after all that she said she had to pay a ransom to get him back.

"Yeah is she really?" asked Lyanne Scheaffer.

Scheaffer was in disbelief after finding out that the woman who allegedly held her 72-year-old father captive for months was finally behind bars. That woman, according to court documents, is 55-year-old Mary Lou Petrucci accused of hoarding dozens of animals.

"She's a monster, pretty much," said Scheaffer.

Court documents indicate that Harold Scheaffer and Mary Lou were dating but shortly after Harold moved in they broke up and Mary Lou started seeing another man who was reportedly living mostly out of his car in the back yard of the house.

During that time, it's alleged that Mary Lou Petrucci locked Harold in a room in the home and nailed the windows shut.

Meanwhile, the home was incurring thousands in code violations, and officials said animals feces could be found all over the residences. And then there was Harold's daughter who wondered why she hadn't heard from her father, who she said suffers from the early stages of dementia.

"Ahh, there were a lot of times I couldn't sleep," said Scheaffer, "Anxiety, stress, frustration, anger, pretty much everything."

Lynanne said a two-month search for her father led her to Petrucci's home. That's when she said she ran into Petrucci's new lover and asked him for help.

"And then I just, um, paid a ransom pretty much to get him back," said Scheaffer, "He was locked in the house. With dead bolts so he couldn't get out of the house, so I paid him to get him out."

Lynanne was overjoyed to discover that Petrucci is now facing charges for allegedly holding her father captive.

"I'm so excited that it's working. The justice system is working? Yeah, you just got to be patient," said Scheaffer, "And it's hard to be patient when your emotions get involved."

Family members said Harold is now staying at an undisclosed location so that Mary Lou Petrucci will not be able to find him.

Mary Lou Petrucci has been a suspected animal hoarder before. The Animal Rescue League was at her home five months ago and took away dozens of animals.

Back in 2006, Petrucci had to pay fines for hoarding more than 40 cats and dogs in Montgomery County. And in June, the ARL said they took out 22 cats, 6 rats, 5 hamsters and 4 dogs. The ARL said it is still holding onto those animals as evidence for Petrucci's trial, which is scheduled at the end of December. They said caring for those animals will cost $100,000.

The ARL said when its people were in the Reading home back in June they found feces covering the floor and kitchen cabinets. Neighbors complained about the stench and the flies.

In June, Mary Lou Petrucci refused to go on camera to explain the dozens of pets she claimed were well taken care of. Friday, she wasn't around to explain what the ARL found.

"This time my officers pulled a warrant and we came in so far we've taken a dog, two raccoons, a box turtle, there's a bunch of fish in there and there's about eight cats in there yet," said Harry Brown, the executive director of the Animal Rescue League.

Raccoons are typically found in the wild. The ARL said two were found in a cage. And the other animals they said were living in filth like they were in June.

"You can see my pants and stuff," said Brown, "No, it's not livable conditions for anything to live in."

But police said she was living here, keeping a 72- year-old man against his will and hoarding animals.

Neighbors on Mineral Spring Road couldn't believe it.

"That's absurd, that's really absurd," said Darren Lawrence.

"That's crazy," said Angel Ortiz, "That's so wrong."

"It's sad," said Karen Clouse, "It speaks to her frame of mind. Also, something is definitely wrong. So, somewhere along the line she fell through the cracks."

The ARL said two to three months ago they also went to a Union Township home where the 72-year old man lived when he was dating Petrucci and there they took away 11 cats and two turkeys. But Petrucci is not facing charges in that case.