William Buchman, a 53 year old Californian elementary school teacher has been arrested after authorities were tipped off to a horrific instance where the man had been hoarding as many 400 dead pythons in his home. The tip off came after neighbors complained of rancid smells emanating from the teachers suburban Orange County home.
When cops arrived they found hundred of living and dead pythons in plastic bins stacked floor to ceiling inside his stench ridden dwelling. Four of the five bedrooms in the home were stacked from floor to ceiling and wall to wall with plastic bins on wooden and metal racks.
Forced to wear respirators, investigators proceeded to carry out 182 live and dead ball python that could have been worth a startling $100K had they not been infested with mites, starving or worse.
Told police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna: ‘The smell alone… I feel like I need to take a shower for a week,’ said police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. ‘They’re pretty much in all the bedrooms. Everywhere.’
Amongst the snakes, cops found dozens of mice and rats cannibalizing each other.
‘We have rats that are dead in the cages with the live rats,‘ said Sondra Berg of Santa Ana Police Animal Services. ‘They’ve actually become cannibal and eat each other.’
William Fredrick Buchman was still in custody Wednesday afternoon, Bertagna said. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District, where he works, declined comment, saying it was a police matter. Indeed.
Authorities have told that the man had yet to be formally charged or how he came to acquire the snakes and why for that matter he allowed them to come to so much disrepair.
Neighbors have told he lived alone and that his mother who used to live with him had passed away within the past few years.
Offered Shelly Rooney: ‘His mother was a strong presence in his life.’
Rooney told how William Buchman once broke down in tears as he discussed his late mother with her.
Despite the current melee, Rooney still supports the teacher.
Told Rooney: ‘Mr. Buchman has always been a caring teacher and one who I would gladly be a character witness if called to do so.’
Next-door neighbor Forest Long Sr. said he has known Buchman for years, adding the men had once been friendly, getting together to watch sports on television.
But he noticed a change in his neighbor about a year ago, he said, adding Buchman stopped coming around and, when he did, he appeared to have gained a good deal of weight.
‘Something changed in Bill, yes it did,’ he said.’Something triggered it because I couldn’t even think that that was going on.’
The odor from the house, meanwhile, became unbearable about five months ago. And calls to authorities yielded little respite. It is not understood why only now authorities brought the matter to a head.
‘It got so bad as to where my wife would throw up,’ Long said. ‘She’d get out of the car and run into the house.’
He said neighbors speculated that there must be a dead body inside.
Bertagna said animal control authorities had tried to work with Buchman for several months after neighbors reported the smell. He said they sought a warrant after they were not allowed inside the home.
Berg said Buchman told authorities he was involved in a type of snake breeding called ‘morphing,’ in which owners try to breed different color patterns in the reptiles.
It was a very popular and lucrative enterprise 10 years ago, but has declined, she said.
‘There was a lot of fast money in it, but now the bottom pretty much fell out of the market because there are so many of these snakes out there,’she said.
At one time, Berg said, a good specimen of the type authorities found could have fetched $5,000. Today it would be worth only about $200.
A dead mother, dead pythons? So what was really going on in William Buchman’s mind?
Offered one commentator on the web:
He did not breed just for the money. He lived in a modest house and drove a normal, older vehicle. This was his passion and I know first hand that these snakes were loved and cared for in the most humane way possible…up until now. I am shocked, and heartbroken. I am embarrassed for him. Yes, it is sad that these snakes were now living in unfavorable conditions, and some have died…but these are reptiles…creatures that Mr. Buchman understood very well. What is even more sad is that people in this day and age can be so judgemental and automatically assume he was a bad person. He is not! He is a normal human being. Obsessed with Ball Pythons? Maybe. Hoarding recently? Yes, but this could easily be your brother, your son, etc. Maybe it serves as a wakeup call…everyone should be more kind, reach out and help others in need. Make a point to be in your loved ones lives. Hold them accountable. Call and see how they are doing…go over for an unexpected visit. I am just so saddened by this and I pray for his health and well being and for all his students who have loved him dearly all these years. He needs a friend. He needs help…not to be jailed for what is obviously sudden and severe depression, especially in his home and surroundings. Those who know him will say the same. He is a great teacher and this is definitely an isolated incident. Very misfortunate, and sad.