ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Two people have been arrested in connection to a house sitting incident gone horribly wrong.
Rochester police officials say 29-year-old Chelsea Cooke of Irondequoit and 26-year-old Anthony Altamura of Kent, New York. Both are charged with third degree grand larceny and second degree criminal mischief.
Alan Cooper is originally from England. His wife Katherine, and their two daughters, wanted to go back to his home in the UK to visit family.
They needed someone to take care of their two cats, three dogs, and the family rabbit. Alan’s mother-in-law agreed to help, but on the second day she slipped and broke her pelvis — while the Coopers were 3,000 miles away.
“So Katie reached out on a closed Facebook group,” Alan said. “Trying to find someone who could step in and help take of the animals and house sit.”
They were hoping for a professional, and they thought they found one.
“A woman reached out to us and said ‘I do a dog grooming business, I groom peoples’ dogs in their home, I also will do house sitting and pet sitting,’ and it seemed fantastic,” Alan said.
Under the stress of being so far away, and inability to vet the woman properly, the Coopers accepted her offer.
“We paid her via Venmo, and thought everything was fine,” Alan said. “Everything was not fine.”
Despite good and consistent communication with the house sitter, the Coopers had no reason to worry, at first. However, the woman asked to borrow their car, and asked for her boyfriend to stay over, and then the Coopers were getting strange signals from their remote smoke detectors. On the drive home, smoke detectors were sending signals, and the car was left in horrible condition.
“It smelled like feces, it smelled like smoke in there, it had cereal and alcohol and food poured down the sides,” Katherine said. “My heart already began racing at that point.”
Then they stepped inside their home.
“It’s the scene of what you’d imagine if you had 30 people over for a frat party, and told everyone ‘just have fun, this isn’t our house, nobody has to worry about it.’ You’d think that there had been a massive party,” Alan said. “There was food on the walls, there was food on the ceiling, the ceiling was coming down from water damage.
Like the rest of the house, the kitchen was trashed. Not just a mess, but cupboards and appliances were broken. Every door in the house was damaged. The dogs were in the crates, whimpering to get out, and they didn’t see their cats and the rabbit. Then they went upstairs.
“There’s stains of … the grossest stains across the mattress,” Alan said. “Just, unimaginable. Our drawers were rifled through, underwear had been taken out, and used, somebody used Katie’s clothes and underwear.”
They got their daughters out, and called the police immediately. They took care of their dogs, and cats.
“The cat litter trays looked like they hadn’t been emptied the entire time, there was a bag in the cat litter tray had was covered in maggots. And there were flies all throughout the house,” the Coopers said.
“Incredulous initially, betrayed, violated,” Alan said. “It’s somebody you place your trust in to do the absolute opposite of what was done. If it wasn’t for the dogs, we could have just let people break in and squat in the house. At least then the action would be criminal. These are people we invited in as guests.”
“You just feel really betrayed, violated, these people took advantage of us when we needed help, Katherine said. “One of the worst kinds of people to me.”
Now, they’re trying to move forward.
“We’re all jittery. We’re all anxious, I feel like it’s going to take some time for us to feel comfortable in our home, and to feel safe, and to trust people,” Alan said.
And whatever it is, they hope there is some consequence for those responsible , who Katie claims are drug addicts on a Facebook post, and send a message of warning.
“We just want want people to be aware, so it doesn’t happen to anybody else. A cautionary tale. This lady is still grooming people’s dogs, she’s still taking money from people,” Katherine said.