SAN ANTONIO – Neighbors are horrified after a Northwest Bexar County elderly woman is hospitalized after fleas ate away at skin all over her body, including most of her nose.
They say the 74-year-old woman weighed just 80 pounds and had been living in a house of horrors that was falling apart around her.
Several neighbors say they saw the warning signs and when they couldn’t help, begged authorities for more than a year and a half.
They’re now outraged she fell through the cracks.
“At one time, this lady had a beautiful, beautiful property,” Tom Towles says.
He lives across the street where he’s watched the house go from a home to a horror.
"The house is gray,” Towles says. “There's no color in the house. Everything is either covered with feces or mold."
He says the elderly homeowner is a longtime widow, her only relative lives overseas and her companions are stray animals.
“She used to do grooming and boarding,” Towles says. “She used to come over and take care of my house when we were on vacation.”
So it’s unthinkable to see feral cats roaming the property, to hear mangy dogs barking uncontrollably, and to feel the itch of fleas that ate her alive.
“This woman is a living dead person,” Towles says. “This person was solid, ashly gray. Not white, but gray."
Towles says he knew when the woman started sleeping outside in the car that the situation inside had spiraled out of control, so he contacted Adult Protective Services.
“They told me how they would fix any roof leaks, give her air conditioning, fans, get her food -- everything you would want to hear,” Towles says.
He says Protective Services visited several times but never made good on those promises.
Towles also contacted the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and says deputies visited about 20 times. The Sheriff’s Office says each time, the woman understood their questions and refused help.
Deputies did not go inside until recently, when she was finally taken to the hospital – and neighbors finally got a good look at the filthy conditions.
"You would probably vomit if you walked into the lady's master bathroom,” Towles says.
He says clothes were piled everywhere, the sink was filled with cigarette butts and rain water collected from holes in the roof.
“We slipped and slid all over the house,” Towles says. “It was solid feces everywhere."
He says raccoons are living in the attic, and he found one of them dead in the living room area.
“I think the neighbors got on all of this to try to save the lady’s life, which I think we failed in,” Towles says.
News 4 asked several agencies how the woman was allowed to get to this point. Protective Services says records are confidential. Sheriff’s deputies say they did all they legally could.
Meanwhile, stray animals are still wandering the property. Neighbors contacted Animal Care Services and learned ACS cannot remove the animals until they’re trapped first.
Neighbors say ACS referred them to the Sheriff’s Office, but deputies don’t have the proper equipment to remove animals. Neighbors are afraid to trap them.
ACS does have two of the women’s dogs in custody but the Sheriff’s Office says ACS representatives did not show up to a hearing Wednesday afternoon that would have determined what happens to the dogs.
Neighbors are furious that an elderly woman fell through the cracks and believe no one will take responsibility for what happened.