Couple sentenced for leaving cats to die in home

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Update: Robert and Teresa Massie have been sentenced to 45 days in jail for aggravated animal cruelty as well as 400 hours of community service.

The couple cannot own pets during their four-years on diversion.

They will serve the jail time on weekends.

The couple left their four cats to die when they abandoned their home in 2012.

More than 100 letters were sent to the court by animal rights supporters.

BARTLETT, Tenn. -- For days a vile smell has seeped out of a home at 3129 Marr Cove in Bartlett.

It’s the unmistakable smell of death.

“Whenever I walk outside my door I smell it,” neighbor Ashley Brustow said. “I saw the cats in the window and I thought they were dead.”

Brustow's worst suspicions were confirmed Thursday when police searched the home after getting a tip from a concerned neighbor.

Inside they say feces covered the entire floor and furniture.

Four cats were found dead.

“I’m really just kind of shocked by the whole incident,” neighbor Michael Geiger said.

Neighbors said Robert and Teresa Massie and their two daughters Emma and Caitlin abandoned their home about four months ago.

“One day out of nowhere they just weren't around anymore,” Geiger said.

The daughters told police they would stop by the home every two to three weeks to feed the cats, but police say they didn't find any water for the cats inside.

According to city records the water was shut off at the home on February 20th for nonpayment.

The family owes the city more than $1000.

The veterinarian determined the cats all died from "complications due to severe dehydration."

“That`s very unfortunate given the fact that had someone have known something we could have provided some aid," Geiger said.

Police call the Massie family's actions "depraved and sadistic."

Friday each one of them was charged with four counts of aggravated animal cruelty and given a $5,000 bond.

Neighbors hope the next step will be condemning the home they call an unsanitary horror.