Investigators made a disturbing discovery on Thursday, finding nearly two dozen farm animals inside a Jersey City apartment — and the U.S. Navy sailor who owns the unit believes the renter may have been conducting animal sacrifices there.
It was a wild scene as an animal service agent was seen carrying a goat down Van Horne Street, one of about "seven to nine" goats that were said to be found inside the three-bedroom rowhome. But that's not all that was found.
"About four or five dead chicken carcasses, their throats slashed and they were left in a pile," said H. James Boor, of the Division of Environmental Health for Jersey City.
At least 22 farm animals were discovered after in the home after neighbors tipped off the department. Pictures from the scene show goats grazing the backyard, close to chicken carcasses; another photo shows a dead pigeon nailed above a door.
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The man who owns the animals, Emilio Otero, denied sacrificing any of the animals. Otero initially wanted to remain anonymous, but later allowed his identity to be shared.
"I help people with cancer, ladies that not pregnant, people with psoriasis," Otero said, adding that he is a type of doctor.
He said that he does not sacrifice the animals as part of his Santeria practice, but instead uses them for food.
"Its legal, legally (in) the United States ... you respect the religion," Otero said.
But Jersey City's Division of Environmental Health disagreed, saying it is very much illegal.
"Jersey City has an ordinance that prohibits residents from keeping farm animals, livestock, in the city limits," Boor said. "As the investigation goes on, (Otero) could face per count — not sure how many counts — but per count issued by my inspectors it could be $2,000 and 90 days in jail."
Caught in the middle of everything is the home's owner, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez, the Navy sailor who just returned home from a tour in the Middle East, and called the situation "a nightmare." She says that Otero hasn't paid rent since May, and the eviction moratorium is preventing her from kicking him out despite the damage she believes he's doing to her property.
"I come from humble beginnings. I served this country, I purchased this house, I live on the same block and I wanted to get an investment property, and this is what this has turned into," Brevard-Rodriguez said.
She believes that all sorts of animals — goats, pigeons, chickens and possibly more — are being sacrificed on her property.
Otero was not arrested and does not yet face any charges. Jersey City police are investigating.