HOLIDAY — The beige stucco house was unassuming from the outside. A pink, flowered "Welcome" sign hung from one of the eaves in front, and a Rays sticker was posted in a window. In the first lot of a quiet, dead-end street, neighbors say the people they saw living there were equally subdued. Until someone got closer.
A moving truck pulled up in the driveway at 1011 Hiawatha Place on Wednesday afternoon, though neighbors said they don't know why it was there. The driver knocked on the door, but no one was home. Moments later, Frankie Rodriguez got a knock on her door from the man. She said he looked worried.
He asked if she had recently seen anyone at the home across the street, where his truck was parked. She asked why. He said there were flies on the windows. Corpulent ones, the size of acorns.
"They look like corpse flies," he said.
Rodriguez followed the man over to the house. The blinds were shut as usual. She tapped on the windows and shouted hellos through the glass. Dogs barked from inside. She called 911.
Deputies arrived and began inspecting. They went through a gate to the back yard with Rodriguez close by.
"As soon as I put my head over the fence, I could smell … rot," she said.
The yard was full of wet rags, she said. A side door was left open. She watched a deputy take a breath of fresh air and walk inside.
"Pasco County Sheriff!" she heard him announce.
Then, a stream of bone-thin puppies poured out of the door, their skin stretched thin over their ribs and spines. She said the deputies told her the inside of the home was covered with feces.
Pasco animal control workers showed up and removed cages from inside. There were eight dogs, seven rabbits, four cats, four turtles, two snakes, two lizards and one ferret — 28 animals in all.
Rodriguez said the woman she'd previously seen at the house arrived around 9 p.m. The woman screamed and cried in the street. When everyone left, Rodriguez said, the woman went inside and turned off the lights.
The Sheriff's Office identified the animals' owner as 25-year-old Alicia Nelson. She has not been arrested and is not in custody. Deputies referred the case to the State Attorney's Office, which is investigating to determine whether to file charges.
Sheriff's spokeswoman Melanie Snow said deputies did not make an arrest because "they just didn't think she was a flight risk."
Assistant state attorneys Mike Halkitis and Bruce Bartlett did not return phone calls for comment.
In an interview Thursday with the Tampa Bay Times' coverage partner Bay News 9, Pasco Animal Services interim director Kevin Mallory said the animals had been in substandard conditions. He said three 4-month-old boxer puppies were emaciated. The rest of the animals are in good health.
He said Nelson has the option of relinquishing the animals to animal control where they can then be put up for adoption. If the case goes to court, a judge can force her hand.
Nelson could not be reached for comment.
On Thursday morning on Hiawatha Place, neighbors said they didn't know the people in the beige house.
Catie Kordenbrock, who shares a fence line with them, saw a man and woman move in four months ago but had never spoken with them.
Rodriguez stood in her driveway and looked warily at the house.
"I'm not a nosy neighbor," she said. "But if something like that's going on, I'm going to stop it, especially if it's animals or children."
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.