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Dilworth man faces felony for 32 dead pythons

MOORHEAD - A Dilworth man accused of letting 32 snakes die of neglect told authorities he felt such a fate was better than disposing of them in a Dumpster.

Henry Ward Atherton Jr., 49, faces one felony charge and two misdemeanor charges of mistreating animals.

The charges stem from a discovery made Jan. 15 when authorities investigated a complaint of a foul smell coming from a storage unit in Glyndon, Minn.

A total of 32 Ball pythons and three containers of rotten eggs were found dead in the storage unit.

According to Clay County District Court documents filed Friday:

Atherton told investigators he transported the snakes from Florida to Minnesota with the intention of selling them at a show or convention.

Atherton said he placed the snakes in the storage unit because he could find no other place to keep them.

He told authorities the last time he had been to the storage unit was in November and, at that time, some of the snakes were already dead.

Atherton said he expected the rest would also die in the storage compartment.

"The defendant stated that he believed the snakes would die and freeze in the cold weather at which time he planned to return and dispose of them," the court documents state.

"The defendant stated that the snakes are considered pets and didn't feel right just throwing them into a Dumpster," the documents said.

An arrest warrant wasn't issued for Atherton, whose initial court date was set for Feb. 14, according to court records.