Crime

Top crime stories of 2016: Elder, child, animal abuse alleged at ‘appalling’ Lynden home

The Whatcom County home where Mitchell O’Donnell is accused of abusing his son, starving his dog, and leaving his elderly father-in-law covered in human waste.
The Whatcom County home where Mitchell O’Donnell is accused of abusing his son, starving his dog, and leaving his elderly father-in-law covered in human waste. Courtesy to the Bellingham Herald

A man was charged in September with neglecting an elderly man, abusing his son, and nearly starving a dog to death at a squalid home near Lynden.

A teenage boy called 911 around 2 p.m. Sept. 18 to report his father, Mitchell Ray O’Donnell, 46, had been beating him daily.

Deputies reached the house at 1520 Birch Bay-Lynden Road minutes later, but instead of seeing the boy or his father, they discovered a confused 77-year-old man lying on a couch on the front porch. He was coated head-to-toe in feces and urine, according to charging papers. He could not stand, and he could not say his name. An ambulance rushed him to St. Joseph hospital, where staff found – among other signs of extreme neglect – a disconnected catheter left him with no control over his bladder.

More than an hour later O’Donnell arrived home with his 13-year-old son. He told deputies the 911 call had been a prank. The boy said O’Donnell coached him to give the same story; he was taken into the custody of Child Protective Services.

O’Donnell was arrested. He had power of attorney over the elderly man, his father-in-law, and stated he’d been trying to push him toward independence.

Inside the house deputies found the living room floor covered in human feces, charging papers say.

Outside an emaciated dog, A Saint Bernard named Champ, walked around with “ribs and bones grotesquely protruding from his body,” according to charging papers. He was taken by animal control officers. One year earlier O’Donnell had been investigated for starving alpacas and goats, the charges state.

O’Donnell posted bond, but failed to show up for court in December. Deputies went to the home to pick him up on a warrant, and saw him trying to drive away from the house. Pulled over, he identified himself by his dead brother’s name. He was arrested to face new felony charges of criminal impersonation.

O’Donnell still awaits trial on charges of abandonment of a dependent person, criminal mistreatment, felony harassment for threats to kill, and first-degree animal cruelty.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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