Case of neglected animals continued until December 1

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

The issue of whether an 80-year-old rural Viola woman should forfeit her scores of animals was continued to Tuesday, Dec. 1, in Mercer County Circuit Court. The decision on Wednesday, Nov. 18, came after questions arose whether Delores Lejman understood the proceedings.

Mercer County Animal Control recently seized 27 cats, nine dogs and a number of birds from Lejman. The cats were reportedly kept in little cages and all animals were neglected, the prosecution alleged.

Before the hearing began, Mercer County State's Attorney Gregory McHugh said the area where the animals were kept was "a real pig sty."

McHugh went into more detail once the somewhat surreal forfeiture hearing began.

"The animals were in terrible condition," he said. "They were seized, they are regaining their health now and will be put up for adoption."

There was a question whether Lejman's hearing allowed her to follow the proceedings. Associate Judge Norma Kauzlarich came down from the bench, stood in front of the chair where Lejman, appearing on her own behalf, was seated. The judge wrote notes to the woman, asking questions and explaining the issues.

"Do you know why you're here today?" the judge asked. "You're here because the state filed a petition (for you) to forfeit these animals. They want to keep your animals. … You're unable to care for your animals."

The state also is asking for a competency hearing.

Judge Kauzlarich made a concerted effort to explain what was happening. Lejman, for the most part, did not respond to questions written by the judge but instead talking vaguely that "there is something going on here."

"Here's my concern, she's not being responsive to me," Kauzlarich said.

"I want to know where my animals are at," Lejman said, her voice rising. "This is nuts. … My little animals, oh my animals are beautiful."

"Delores, I have them, all of your animals," Animal Control Officer Chris Brewer told her.

Brewer showed Lejman photos of the animals and said, "This is not how you take care of animals."

"This is terrible," Lejman said. "I love all of them, every one of them."

Judge Kauzlarich suggested a number of times that an attorney might need to be appointed for Lejman. After continued attempts to get the woman to understand what was going on, the judge reached a decision after Lejman said, "I don't trust any of you anymore."

"We're having an attorney," Kauzlarich said. "I've had enough."