EDGEWATER, Fla. - Police found a disturbing sight Sunday when they performed a well-being check at an Edgewater home.
Officers were called to the home on Royal Palm Drive to check on three children -- ages 8, 9 and 10 -- when they found 245 animals of various species housed on the property, a news release said.
"It was immediately evident neither the children nor the animals were being cared for properly. The residence was in deplorable living conditions," the release said.
On the property, officers said they found four dogs, two cats, nine guinea pigs (one of which was dead), 12 rabbits, four hamsters, 10 sugar gliders, 14 birds, a gecko, a tortoise, a hedgehog, a bearded dragon, a leopard spotted gecko, 95 mice and 83 rats.
"Officers observed a dead guinea pig in a cage, rotting food, animal feces and urine throughout the residence," the release said.
Melissa Hamilton, Greg Nelson and Susan Nelson were charged with three counts of child abuse and 66 counts of animal cruelty, police said.
Officials said Greg Nelson called the police after he broke up with Susan Nelson, who is his wife, and Hamilton, who is his girlfriend, after he said they wouldn't let him take the children.
"The animals were brought to the Edgewater Animal Shelter. The shelter is in need of donations, which can be dropped off at 605 Mango Tree Drive in Edgewater," the release said.
The children were removed from the home by the Florida Department of Children and Family and were placed into the custody of a family member.
Edgewater police said it's the fifth time they've been called to the home in the past year.
"It's finally come to a head," neighbor Ashley Fogg said. "It's been three years that I've been personally calling and reporting them between Animal Control, Code Enforcement and police."
Records show Animal Control workers visited the home twice in 2018 -- for a loose dog and for a report of an injured dog.
The city said the residents never allowed Animal Control employees into the home and that the city never had enough evidence to obtain a warrant.
Neighbors said the girls were home-schooled.
"Looking at that room. How do you go to bed?" Fogg said. "How can you consciously sleep at night knowing these are the conditions you put your child in?"
Susan Nelson, 49, was booked into the Volusia County Jail on child abuse and animal cruelty charges. She was released from jail Monday after posting bail and declined to answer Channel 9's questions.
Gregg Nelson, 57, was admitted to Advent Health New Smyrna, complaining of chest pains, police said. Upon release, he will be booked into the Volusia County Jail without bail, police said.
Hamilton, 43, was involuntarily committed for a psychological evaluation under the Baker Act and is undergoing treatment after she said she does not want to live and took 17 Xanax pills, police said.
A judge has ordered Hamilton to not have contact with the children unless allowed by DCF.
The Edgewater Animal Shelter said they are accepting donations for the animals involved. Anyone who would like to donate can contact the shelter through its Facebook page.
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