911 Call Released in Berwyn Squalor Case

Matthew Degner, 14, died in September after living in a home with more than 200 animals

By BJ Lutz and Jeff Goldblatt
|  Wednesday, Nov 30, 2011  |  Updated 9:33 PM CDT
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Second City Animal Stories

Lydia Price

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Dead Boy, 200+ Animals Found at Berwyn Home

More than 200 animals were rescued from a Berwyn home Thursday and Friday in a major case of animal hoarding discovered during the investigation of a teen boy.
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A September 911 call was made by a Berwyn mother who had no criminal intent and who was only deeply concerned about the welfare of her child who'd gotten sick, her criminal defense attorney said Wednesday.

"The 9-11 tape reveals a lady who is deeply caring about her children. She calls up. He child is sick. She calls for help. It’s an emergency situation. And during the emergency, she’s doing everything she can to make sure that her son can live," attorney Steve Greenberg said of the recording.

Audio: Mother's 911 Call


The September 8 call was made by Lydia Price, who found her 14-year-old son unconscious and not breathing.

"My son is dying," Price is heard telling a dispatcher. "He's got stuff coming out of his nose... He's been sick with the stomach bug, like puking."

"He's dead. He's dead. He's dead. Oh, My God," she later added.

When emergency personnel arrived, they found Matthew Degner in the yard wearing just a T-shirt. An autopsy later revealed he died of bronchopneumonia and his death was ruled natural.

But law enforcement officials and Department of Children and Family Services personnel took notice of the home in which the boy lived. Inside, investigators said they found a severe case of animal hoarding and recovered more than 200 animals in the roughly 1,100 square-foot bungalow.

The menagerie included dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, squirrels, at least one raccoon, two monkeys and two kinkajous.

In the 911 recording, dogs can be heard barking in the background.

"She just got overwhelmed. There's no lack of of love here at all. What happened here is just a complete tragedy," said Greenberg.

Price is currently free on $10,000 bail while she awaits trial on charges of criminal abuse, neglect and child endangerment.

Greenberg gave an indication as to how he'll defend Price, saying the state has to prove some sort of criminal intent. He said that sometimes, tragically, bad things happen and that authorities cannot turn every accident or unintentional situation into a crime.

In his mind, he said Price has been punished enough already.

Price is due in court in Maywood on Dec. 5.

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