More than 400 snakes found at Santa Ana home
Police serving a search warrant Wednesday morning after reports of a smell found hundreds of pythons in a home, many of them dead. Bill Buchman, a 52-year-old elementary school teacher, was taken into custody on suspicion of felony cruelty to animals.
Police found more than 400 pythons at a Santa Ana home Wednesday morning. Officers served a search warrant at the house in the 2900 block of North Fernwood Drive around 7 a.m. While interviewing Sondra Berg, Santa Ana police animal services supervisor, television reporters Bobby DeCastro (Fox 11) and Wendy Burch (KTLA 5) plug their noses to avoid the stench emanating from the house, full of dead and decaying snakes. Berg holds an albino ball python that survived.
ANTA ANA – Neighbors knew Bill Buchman had a snake.
But they had no idea how many snakes were slithering, coiling and dying in his North Fernwood Drive home until Wednesday.
That was when police served a warrant, gagging at the stench that betrayed the elementary school teacher who moonlighted as a snake breeder.
The smell rolled into the street and over a gathering of friends, neighbors and gawkers. It swept over a team of police in biohazard jumpsuits and facemasks as they pulled 182 live pythons – and more than 240 dead ones – from Buchman’s rodent-infested home.
“The smell is ungodly,” said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna of the Santa Ana Police Department.
“Worst case I’ve ever seen,” said Sondra Berg, animal services supervisor with the Santa Ana Police Department. “Two years ago, we found 110 cats in an 800 square-foot home. This is much more severe.”
Over the past few months, neighbors called authorities about the foul odor. They thought it was trash. Then Jevohah’s Witnesses knocked on the door. Had someone died? They called police.
Police arrested Buchman, 53, a sixth-grade teacher at Mariners Elementary School, on suspicion of felony cruelty to animals.
Up until this week, Buchman was regular Joe. Quiet maybe, especially after his mom, Sandy, died in 2011 – but a regular Joe.
He worked out. He taught 6th graders. He loved the San Antonio Spurs basketball team and the Baltimore Ravens football team. Last year, he watched the Super Bowl at neighbor Forest Long’s home with a crowd of more than 100.
“I had a special chair for him by the taco bar,” said Long, who often talked sports with Buchman. “Let me tell you, Bill was a nice guy, outspoken, knowledgeable. He talked to my grandkids about school.”
Buchman used to show his bull terrier, Kodak, at dog shows, Long said. When the dog died, Buchman decided to buy a snake like the one he had as a child.
“I knew he had one,” Long said. “But 300?”
Buchman became a snake breeder. He’d been working to breed various color and pattern combinations in the snakes, known as “morphs,” Berg said.
When the market was high, they could be worth $1,500, Berg said. Now? About $200.