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Mentally ill and elderly people held in squalid chicken coops, authorities say

September 4, 2009 | 11:44 pm


San Bernardino authorities arrested a woman Friday who they say boarded 22 mentally ill, elderly and other people in  prison-like conditions, housing some in converted chicken coops behind razor wire fences.

Pensri Sophar Dalton, 61, was arrested on 16 counts of suspected elder abuse, according to City Atty. James F. Penman. Some of the people appeared to have mental health issues, he said.

“The stench was pretty horrific,” Penman said. “These were very squalid conditions.”

The people were being held in dilapidated buildings, some without running water or toilets. The facility is not licensed with the state or the city, Penman said. Two milk box crates containing prescription medicines were found at the site. At least two of the residents were in wheelchairs.

Police arrested Dalton after going to her home in the 2800 block of North Golden Avenue to arrest a man with outstanding warrants for drunk driving, according Penman said.

Penman said that while some residents were held in converted chicken coops, others lived in shared bedrooms, the doors of which had padlocks on them. Residents ate on two picnic tables beneath a metal roof outside on a dirt floor.

Two  residents were taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton.

-- Patrick McDonnell

Photo:  Trevor Castro describes living in a converted chicken coop in San Bernardino.  Credit: Christina House / For The Times.