- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 14, 2005


Neighbors who had wondered what the stench was from a town house in a Burke community spent yesterday coming to grips with the answer.

Fairfax County police said the odor was that of more than 100 dead cats — plus nearly 50 more live ones — being kept by an elderly woman.

That same woman had been arrested earlier this week after authorities removed more than 270 cats — some alive, some dead — from another of her homes in the county’s Mount Vernon section.

Ruth Knueven, 82, already faces charges including cruelty to animals and obstruction of justice for the discovery July 8 in Mount Vernon.

Police yesterday said they are deciding whether to level additional charges against Mrs. Knueven after finding 134 dead cats and 47 living ones in a Burke home belonging to her family.

“All of these cats had respiratory disease and there were feces and urine all around the house,” said Officer Richard Henry, a Fairfax County police spokesman.

Officer Henry said all the cats found alive in both homes had to be euthanized.

Neighbors in the quiet Burke community on Lakepointe Drive said they had noticed foul smells coming from the town house, but didn’t know what was causing them until police arrived.

They said they had seen Mrs. Knueven hauling heavy garbage bags that they now presume were filled with dead cats.

“Who would’ve ever thought that they were cats — dead cats — in those bags,” neighbor Nancy Fields said.

Miss Fields said she had to burn incense in her basement and scour its walls with disinfectant because of the stench coming from next door.

Mrs. Knueven and her family have been living in a hotel since last Friday, when health officials declared her Mount Vernon home unfit for human habitation.

The county’s Hoarding Task Force is aiding the Knueven family, said John Yetman, chairman of the task force, which helps residents who obsessively collect things — including animals — in their homes to the detriment of their health and safety.

“The next step is working with them to help them restore their home,” said Mr. Yetman, adding that the county could offer them financial and psychological help.

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