The Selden woman suspected of burying animal carcasses in her backyard must undergo a psychiatric evaluation before she can stand trial, a judge ruled Monday.
Sharon McDonough of Awixa Place will return to court on Friday after psychiatrists determine whether she is "an incapacitated person," Judge Paul Hensley said in District Court in Central Islip.
McDonough, 43, said little during a court appearance. She was charged with six counts of misdemeanor torturing animals last month after investigators removed five dogs and a cat from squalid conditions in her home.
Investigators have also dug up more than 40 animal carcasses from McDonough's backyard. More charges could follow, a prosecutor said.
McDonough's attorney, James D'Angelo of Huntington, said the media has accused his client "of much more than the prosecutors." He said McDonough is "looking forward to trial so her name can be cleared."
A family court judge placed McDonough's six young children, all girls, in the care of family members, friends and foster homes last month. The family court case is ongoing, D'Angelo said.
McDonough's son, Doug, 21, last month accused McDonough of forcing the children to torture pets.
McDonough's case generated national media attention after members of Rescue Ink, an animal welfare group with a cable television show, criticized the Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' handling of the case. Rescue Ink members, followed by a camera crew, watched McDonough's court appearance Monday.
"We're backing up the kids and making sure they are OK," said Rescue Ink member Joe Panzarella.
The Suffolk SPCA is still investigating the case, chief Roy Gross said.
The SPCA has not found any evidence that the dead animals found on McDonough's property were stolen pets, Gross said. Some of McDonough's neighbors had raised concerns about their lost pets after the SPCA dug up the carcasses.
"It appears the animals we uncovered have been purchased or acquired by her," Gross said.