WEST NEW YORK -- Piedad Von-Der Linden, 58, of 57th Street in West New York was arrested on April 19 after police officials found she had allegedly barricaded her 89-year-old mother-in-law in the basement of her residence, West New York Police Director Michael Indri said.
Animal cruelty Officer Jeoffrey Santini accompanied fellow officers after neighbors complained that Von Der Linden was allegedly keeping a large number of cats in the basement.
Upon arrival, Officer Yousef Awadallah observed that the basement door had a shovel propped up in front of it, Indri said. "Sure enough, when they opened it up, they found an elderly woman wandering aimlessly who appeared not to know what was going on," he added.
Awadallah also noted that another exit from the basement had been allegedly blocked with plywood and cinderblocks, and officials found nine cats who were then removed from the premises by Santini, Indri stated.
"The woman was in bad mental and physical condition," Indri said. "You can just imagine with so many cats."
While police were on the premises, Von-Der Linden returned home and entered the basement, and allegedly asked why she was being harassed, according to a police press release.
Indri reported that Von-Der Linden allegedly said she had been at church for two hours, and that the reason she kept the shovel in front of the door was because it swayed open without it, he said.
Emergency Medical Services and a building inspector were called to the scene, Indri said, and the basement was determined unfit for habitation. Hudson County Protective Services was notified and allowed the victim to stay at Von-Der Linden's residence; but on the first floor, not in the basement.
"It's a distressing situation," Indri said. "Hudson County Protective Services will conduct a follow-up investigation and decide how best to handle it."
Von-Der Linden was arrested and issued a summons, as she had no prior offenses on her record, Indri stated. -- Gennarose Pope