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Elgin man with 7 dogs pleads guilty, gets jail

Updated: March 23, 2013 6:31AM

ELGIN — A man who rented space in an Elgin home found strewn with dog feces last month has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to 40 days in jail. But the three people who reportedly lived upstairs will go to court Friday to face related charges, including endangering the health of two children who lived there.

Police searched the home, in the 600 block of Lavoie Avenue, on Jan. 31 after a neighbor complained of intensely bad smells coming from inside.

Officers and city inspectors said they found a house filled with rotting waste and inhabited by Cheryl D. Thacker, 66; Randy G. McDonald, 51; Crystal M. Zwarton, 38; Zwarton’s two children, both under the age of 10; and nine dogs of varying breeds and sizes.

Zwarton was charged with two counts of endangering the health of a child a misdemeanor. McDonald and Zwarton were charged with two counts each of cruel treatment of animals, also a misdemeanor. The children were temporarily placed in custody of their father, and the dogs were taken to an animal hospital in Schaumburg.

But those three adults, who police say form a loosely connected family, told investigators that seven of the nine dogs actually belong to the man who had been staying in their basement, Robert A,. Shilling.

A few days after the raid, the 38-year-old Shilling was found and charged with seven counts each of cruelty to animals, failure to carry out an animal owner’s duties and failure to inoculate animals. All are misdemeanors.

Shilling wasted little time in arranging a plea deal with prosecutors. On Tuesday, he went into Elgin Branch Court and pleaded guilty to the charges in return for a sentence of 40 days in the Kane County jail.

Shilling also agreed to turn over ownership of the dogs to the city. They are expected to be offered for adoption.

Thacker, McDonald and Zwarton are scheduled to be in court Friday to plead guilty or innocent.

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