Ojai woman arrested for felony elder abuse and misdemeanor animal abuse

Ventura County Sheriff Department – Incident Press Release

Catherine Ann Vandermaesen

On March 13, 2019, Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies from the Ojai Police Station responded to the 1200 block of Gregory Street in Ojai for a “check-the-wellbeing” call initiated by Ventura County Adult Protective Services (APS). According to APS, (S) Catherine Ann Vandermaesen, was suspected of not properly caring for her 74-year old sister (possible victim). Once the deputies made contact with Vandermaesen and her sister, they did not want deputies to enter the residence, and insisted all occupants at the location were fine. When the deputies requested to see their 96-year-old father, both daughters said they would bring him out in a wheelchair, but refused to allow deputies access into their residence. After gathering more information as to the overall living conditions for all the occupants and animals inside, deputies chose to gather more resources and return the following day.

On March 14, 2019, Ojai deputies and detectives requested the assistance of several entities listed above to help investigate the possible violations noted at this residence. This task force discussed possible elder abuse, animal abuse/neglect, medical concerns, living hazards, housing code compliance, and environmental concerns.

As deputies responded to the residence, the ammonia smell associated with urine was detected 20 feet from the residence. Once the task force had assessed the overall situation, they learned that Vandermaesen had allowed her elderly father (victim), to reside in conditions not fit for human living and willfully caused or permitted the health of her elderly father to suffer under the specific living conditions noted on scene. Since Vandermaesen had assumed control and care for all the animals located on scene, the task force discovered she allowed them to reside in conditions not fit for animal living.

Due to the excessive animal fecal and urine matter located throughout the entire residence, Ventura County Animal Control and Humane Society of Ventura County – Ojai, removed and impounded 8 canines, two rabbits, one feline, one African Grey parrot, and 55 rats (wild rats). According to Ventura County Animal Control and Humane Society of Ventura County – Ojai, they estimated another 200 to 700 wild rats were still loose and residing within the two bedrooms dwelling, walls, garage and garbage located throughout the residence. The City of Ojai Code Enforcement “yellow” tagged the residence, due to the conditions inside the residence being unlivable and a danger to the occupants and animals (both caged and uncaged).

The 96-year-old male victim was medically assessed on scene by the Ventura County Fire Department and later transported by AMR (Lifeline) ambulance to the Ojai Valley Hospital Emergency Room. Ventura County Adult Protection Services assumed custody and control over the elderly male victim. Vandermaesen’s elderly sister was also medically assessed on scene and transported to Ojai Valley ER. Ventura County Adult Protection Services helped her gain temporary housing services.

Deputies arrested (S) Catherine Ann Vandermaesen for PC 368(b)(1), Elder Abuse (felony) and PC 597.1(a)(1), Failure to care for Animals (misdemeanor) and booked her into the Ventura County Pre-Trial Detention Facility.

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