Published December 18, 2009
CENTRAL ISLIP, New York – A judge ordered a New York woman held on $100,000 bail Friday after prosecutors cited evidence that some of the 42 dead animals buried in her yard had been tortured, with duct tape around their mouths or signs that they had drowned.
Sharon McDonough, 43, had been free without bail after her November arrest on misdemeanor charges, but she was taken away in handcuffs after her appearance Friday in Suffolk County Court.
McDonough faces "the likelihood of a felony indictment," said John Cortes, assistant district attorney. Authorities initially found 20 dogs buried behind her Selden home in early November; a subsequent search Dec. 8 uncovered another 22 dead animals.
Necropsies found evidence the animals had been abused, Cortes said.
"There are indications this defendant did kill these animals," District Judge Paul Hensley said in setting bail. "I believe the impulse to flee will become irresistible."
Defense attorney James D'Angelo said his client is not guilty and was shocked by the judge's ruling, and indicated she is unlikely to be able to post bail.
"I don't feel there was a significant change in circumstances," D'Angelo said. "She's made each and every court appearance. She's presumed to be innocent. I am very disappointed with the judge's decision today."
McDonough has been charged with abusing five dogs and a cat found alive in her home.
After McDonough's arrest, some neighbors feared the worst for pets that disappeared in recent months. But Roy Gross of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals later concluded that McDonough probably bought the animals or adopted them through shelters and other traditional outlets.
Cortes confirmed those findings at Friday's court session.
A Family Court judge has removed custody of McDonough's six daughters, ranging in age from 18 months to 13 years.
That judge held a status hearing earlier Friday. After learning that McDonough had not seen her daughters since her arrest, Judge Andrew Tolentino ordered Child Protective Services to organize an immediate visit.
However, after McDonough was taken into custody, D'Angelo conceded that any visit would probably be postponed.
Douglas McDonough, 21, turned in his mother on Nov. 5. He described the home as "a concentration camp for the animals" and claimed he and some of his siblings were present when animals were abused and killed.
He was in the courtroom when Hensley ordered his mother jailed but declined to comment afterward.