"The house was filthy," described Clayton, N.C. Police Chief Blair Myhand. "There were bugs and maggots ... It was a pretty foul, disgusting scene."
Officers found four dogs in all at the home. They were locked inside cages with no food or water, and owners had abandoned the house, leaving the animals to die.
"Three of these dogs were deceased. One dog's body was badly decomposed. One dog was barely clinging to life," Myhand said.
The lone dog still breathing had to be euthanized not long after.
"I knew it smelled like something bad," said Dylan Zelenka who lives next door.
Nightmare next door: Clayton man tips off police about foul smell next door. Investigators find 4 dogs left to die in locked cages for weeks — no food or water. The home’s owner located and arrested — charged with felony animal cruelty. #abc11 pic.twitter.com/oRmL48eQ76— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) June 6, 2018
It was Zelenka who called 911 last Thursday to alert police to the suspicious smell on Stalling Street.
"I said it smells like death over there. You need to get somebody over here," Zelenka said.
Five days after the disturbing discovery, Clayton police along with the Johnston County Sheriff's Office arrested 53-year old Willis Hodges on Tuesday morning in Smithfield, North Carolina.
Police said Hodges inherited the home from his mother and lived there with a woman, her adult son, and their four dogs.
But, when they all moved out, at least a month ago, they allegedly left the dogs to fend for themselves.
"We actually heard animals inside a little bit after they left," Zelenka said. "I assumed they took them."
Hodges is booked inside the Johnston County Jail facing felony animal cruelty charges.
Chief Myhand is using the case to remind people about the public resources available if you can't take care of your animals.
"We have an animal control officer, the county has an animal shelter," Myhand said. "Any of those places would gladly take the animal over being left inside an abandoned house to die."
The police investigation is ongoing, with the chief saying more charges and additional arrests could come.
The dogs' remains were taken to NC State Veterinary Center. Necropsies will be performed to determine official causes of death.