Woman accused of animal cruelty found dead in jail

Woman accused of animal cruelty found dead in jail
Diane Cowling
EVERETT, Wash. - A Granite Falls woman accused of starving more than 30 animals to death in a carcass-filled "house of horrors" was found dead inside the the Snohomish County jail on Wednesday, officials said.

The woman was identified by Snohomish County authorities as Diane Cowling, 65, who was booked into the jail on Jan. 24 for investigation of 34 counts of animal cruelty.

An autopsy by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner determined that she died of natural causes.

Cowling was due to be sentenced Monday in Snohomish County Superior Court on six counts of animal cruelty.

Prosecutors say Cowling and her son, Michael Cowling, 36, allowed dozens of animals to starve to death at their former residence in Granite Falls, which was undergoing foreclosure.

When authorities entered the home in January, they found it strewn with dog and cat carcasses, garbage and an inch-thick layer of feces on the floor and furniture.

Granite Falls Police Chief Dennis Taylor called the horrific scene "one of the most deplorable situations" he has ever had to deal with in his law enforcement career.

Three emaciated cats were found barely alive inside the squalid home and were taken to a local animal sanctuary.

The son told police that he and his mother had ran out of money to care for the animals and did not know what to do.

Diane Cowling, who later moved to Lake Stevens, said she had multiple medical problems all at once - including diabetes and breast cancer - at the same time her union went on strike.

She said that left her with no money to feed and care for her pets, and she claimed she could not find an animal shelter that would accept them.

Michael Cowling was sentenced in March to five months in custody and 240 hours of community service for his part in the animal cruelty. He is also forbidden from ever possessing or owning animals again in Washington state.