A northern New Jersey woman charged with elderly neglect after authorities found her mother-in-law living in the basement with the door barricaded said Tuesday that police misinterpreted the situation and she'll fight the charges.
West New York police made the discovery last week while responding to a call about a home overrun with cats.
Capt. Michael Zitt said police, who had received a complaint from a neighbor complaining that dozens of cats were living in the basement of the home, on Thursday found the basement door blocked from the outside by a shovel.
Officers discovered 89-year-old Delphine Linden inside, Zitt said. She appeared disoriented and couldn't answer basic questions, such as her name and the date, he said.
The woman's daughter-in-law, Piedad Linden, returned from church and asked why the officers were questioning her mother-in-law, arguing she'd only left her there for about two hours.
Zitt said Piedad Linden explained to the officers that she had blocked the door to keep it from banging open in the wind.
City officials determined the basement was uninhabitable. Police arrested Piedad Linden on a charge of elderly abuse and neglect. Zitt said the living conditions warranted the neglect charge. He was not immediately aware of any other alleged abuses.
Piedad, who gave her last name as Von Der Linden, told WABC-TV that she loved her mother-in-law and that police had misinterpreted the situation.
"I tried to make her life as pleasant as possible, I did what I could, and this comes to me as a surprise," she said of the charges.
Delphine Von Der Linden insisted she was never barricaded in the basement and was free to come and go.
"She was helping me," she said of her daughter-in-law, "or I wouldn't be here."
Delphine Von Der Linden's son, Guy Von Der Linden, said he'd put the shovel at the basement door to keep it closed because of a broken lock. He added that his mother may have seemed disoriented to police because she was on several medications and may have been alarmed by officers "busting in."
Police contacted senior services to assist the elderly woman. The family was told she could not continue living in the basement.