3 charged after man found dead in Pittsfield Township with 45 animals

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Three people have been charged after a 76-year-old man was found dead last year in Pittsfield Township with 45 cats and dogs, police said.

Township officers were dispatched to the home on Crane Road on Aug. 27, 2020, after relatives reported Andrew Nelson had died.

During the investigation, "officers noted numerous dogs and cats in the home, fecal matter throughout the home, and possible flooding in the basement," police said in a statement Tuesday. "The Huron Valley Humane Society was contacted and (it) launched an investigation into the residents regarding animal abuse."

Pittsfield Township Police Department vehicle

A search warrant led to the recovery of the dogs and cats, which appeared neglected and were removed by the animal society, according to the release.

The Washtenaw County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Nelson and found signs of neglect, ruling his death a homicide, police said.

In July 2021, the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office authorized charges against the primary caregiver, identified as Karen Wibbeler-Nelson. The 41-year-old has been charged with:

  • Open Murder, a felony punishable by up to life in prison
  • Second-degree vulnerable adult abuse, a felony punishable by four years in prison and a $5,000 fine
  • Animals – Abandoning/Cruelty to 10 or more, a felony punishable by four years in prison, a $5,000 fine, community service or any combination
  • Fourth-degree child abuse, a misdemeanor punishable by 1 year in jail or probation up to 5 years

Wibbeler-Nelson was arraigned in July through 14A-1 District Court and was scheduled for a probable cause conference on Sept. 30, records show.

She was held at the Washtenaw County Jail on a $5 million bond. A preliminary examination is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Two other residents of the home also have been charged in the case.

Robert Nelson, 40, was charged with second-degree vulnerable adult abuse, animal abandoning/cruelty and fourth-degree child abuse, police said. His next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 2, records show.

John Michael Stewart, 39, was charged with animal abandoning/cruelty. He waived a preliminary exam and was bound over for trial last month, court records show.