Photographic evidence from the scene — obtained exclusively by the Phoenix — is graphic and damning, showing one cat decomposing in a chair and another sprawled dead in a cage, surrounded by empty bowls. Several litter boxes overflowed with feces; the bloody leg bone sat on a filthy kitchen floor. One of the living cats is seen gazing hungrily from a perch on a fireplace mantle; a second is huddled on a staircase.
But there is evidence that Bozzio did try to care for the cats — at least at one point. Strewn among the feces there are toys, plentiful food and water bowls and litter boxes, and several scratching posts.
The day after the discovery, authorities took custody of the 12 surviving cats; they were brought to the Lakes Region Humane Society in Ossipee, where they were given names and later euthanized. Bozzio was evicted. Neighbors spotted her removing all her belongings and two dead cats.
"I'm telling you the God's truth — Dale would never hurt a mouse, let alone hurt a cat," protests Antonelli. "All she did was try to take care of all these cats."
Nobody walks in New Hampshire
Clearly, Bozzio is no Michael Vick. But the photos show that someone neglected those cats for a seemingly significant length of time, and in the eyes of the state of New Hampshire, the aging rocker is ultimately responsible.
Bozzio was charged with 13 identical counts of animal cruelty, 11 of which were thrown out because the state failed to differentiate the animals; a 12th charge was dismissed because of procedural defects. But one count stuck, and on March 11 a Southern Carroll County District Court judge found her guilty of cruelty to animals.
In his ruling, Judge Robert Varney noted the "horrific" conditions of the home and the "flea-ridden and dirty" state of the animals taken into custody.
"That Ms. Bozzio kept a large colony of cats in this location cannot be doubted," he wrote. "Nor can the fact that she failed utterly in her obligation of sustenance for these animals."
The court will now assess Bozzio's mental state and history with animals through a pre-sentencing investigation. Though her criminal history includes only one previous conviction — for marijuana possession in 1995 — she could now be looking at up to $2000 in fines and one year in jail.
"The surviving charge of which the Defendant has been convicted is of sufficient gravity to warrant consideration of a sentence of some severity," wrote Varney. "Shocking as the neglect of these animals was, the Court is not unmindful that such behavior may have its roots in pathologies which may or may not be the basis for findings in mitigation. The Court should not speculate."
One of the "pathologies" the court may be exploring is known as "animal hoarding." The national animal-cruelty database pet-abuse.com lists nearly 400 cases of hoarding in the US since 2007, with the number of animals seized ranging from 14 to more than 300. Among those cases is that of infamous Boston "cat lady" Heidi Erickson, a repeat offender who pleaded innocent to nine new counts of animal abuse in Plymouth last month.
Animal-hoarding expert Gary Patronek of the Animal Rescue League of Boston — who would not comment on individual cases — emphasizes that there's more to the problem of animal hoarding than just the number of pets.