Apex woman charged with 27 counts of animal cruelty

RALEIGH Chatham County deputies over the weekend accused a 53-year-old woman of operating what was tantamount to an animal torture farm on her property in Pittsboro.

Investigators charged the woman, Stephane Elizabeth Joostema of 902 Olive Street in Apex with 27 counts of felony animal cruelty, according to a cache of arrest warrants filed Friday at the Wake County Magistrate’s Office.

Sheriff’s deputies say the offenses took place at 3180 Silk Hope Gum Springs Road and occurred over a period of two years. The animals involved cats that endured “permanent disfigurement” to their ears and eyes. She was also charged with confining an undisclosed number of cats and dogs, “on a rear, enclosed porch,” and more cats in a chicken coop. Investigators say Joostema apparently had a second coop for chickens that were also victims of neglect, court records show.

Joostema has also been accused of creating a “harmful environment” of “neglect, care and torture” by “starving” two cows on the property and allowing a dog on the property to develop a severe dental infection that resulted in the loss “of almost all of his teeth.” Two more dogs on the property also suffered permanent disfigurements to their skin and joints, respectively, court records show.

Deputies say Joostema’s neglect of a horse on the property resulted in the animal’s death. A second horse was tormented as were goats that were kept in a barn, court records show.

Chatham deputies first charged Joostema in early August with allowing animals to roam at large on the property, authorities reported.

More than 150 animals that were taken from the home in July were sent to rescue groups in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Authorities removed the animals from a single mobile home and the surrounding property on Silk Hope Gum Spring Road. Along with cats and dogs, a 400-pound hog, poultry, horses and cows also were seized.

Chatham County Animal Services reported that some of the animals had medical issues, but none of them had died and none had to be euthanized in August when Joostema was first charged.

Chatham County health department and animal control officers tried working with Joostema for more than two years to improve conditions for the animals, Sheriff’s Capt. Doug Stuart reported in July.

Stuart was unavailable for comment to discuss the latest charges filed against Joostema.

The Apex woman remained in custody Sunday night at the Wake County jail. She is being held in lieu of a $62,000 bail, court records show.