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SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A Southern California teacher who had 400 snakes in his home, many of them dead or dying, pleaded guilty Thursday to failing to provide proper care for them. William Buchman, 53, entered the misdemeanor plea in Orange County and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. He also can't have a pet for five years and is paying $17,000 in restitution for animal care.
He originally was charged with felony animal abuse, which carried a potential three-year prison term. "Mr. Buchman suffered a severe depression after the long terminal illness and death of his mother," his attorney, Paul Meyer, said in a statement. "The depression paralyzed him and he tragically neglected the reptiles which had been a family hobby." Buchman was arrested in January, after reports of a vile smell at his Santa Ana home led to the discovery of the pythons, including 280 that were dead or dying. The front four rooms of the home were packed floor to ceiling with snake bins. Some of the dead snakes were little more than skeletons. There also was an infestation of rats and mice, which had been kept as snake food. "House of Horrors: That's the best way to describe it," Sondra Berg, supervisor for the Santa Ana Police Department's Animal Services Division, said after Buchman's arrest.