A Selden woman tortured and killed a cat and strangled a dog in front of one of her children in a house filled with the stench of excrement, the Suffolk County district attorney said Thursday.
Sharon McDonough's six daughters, who range in age from 22 months to 13 years, were not allowed by McDonough to use the bathroom and had to relieve themselves in buckets, said District Attorney Thomas Spota at a Riverhead news conference after a 13-count indictment was handed up Thursday.
"We're talking about a mother who subjected her children to the most horrific . . . living conditions I have ever seen," he said.
McDonough's daughters slept in their mother's bedroom because their rooms housed cages for the pets, which were rarely allowed outside, Spota said.
McDonough, 43, repeatedly slapped her then-1-year-old daughter for crying and duct-taped the mouth of a dog for barking, Spota said.
A Suffolk grand jury heard an audio recording made by one of McDonough's children of her threatening to kill the 1-year-old, Spota said.
McDonough pleaded not guilty in Suffolk County Court in Riverhead Thursday to the indictment charging her with felony cruelty to animals, misdemeanor torturing animals and misdemeanor child endangerment. She was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail. If convicted of the felony charges, McDonough faces a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison.
Her attorney, James Saladino of Riverhead, said in court he may use an insanity defense at McDonough's trial.
The girls were removed from the home in November and are living with family and friends.
The earliest charges against McDonough date to June 2006, when she strangled a dog in the presence of her then-10-year-old daughter, Spota said.
In November, McDonough slammed a cat against a wall and wrapped it with duct tape before hanging it from the ladder of one of the girl's bunk beds until the cat suffocated, Spota said.
McDonough's daughters were not allowed to take showers and lived on a diet of peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, Spota said.