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Man accuses his mother of foul play at his home

Three birds were strangled, and motor oil was poured into the water at his Port Richey home.

By THOMAS LAKE
Published December 30, 2006


PORT RICHEY - The tale Donald Donley tells could have come from a horror novel. Pet birds strangled by human hands. Drinking water poisoned with motor oil. He has no proof, but he thinks he knows who did it:

His own mother.

Let's start at the beginning. Donley had a bad childhood in upstate New York. He left the state about 10 years ago and started a new life in Port Richey. He and his wife worked two or three jobs at a time and saved up enough for two houses - one to live in and one to rent out.

Then his mother called.

Keep in mind this is his version of events. His mother could not be reached for this story. Anyway, she called in February, and she wanted to start a new life, too. Even though they've never been close, he agreed to let her rent out his investment property on Castanea Drive at a reduced rate.

But she fell behind on the rent and said mean things and let the yard turn into a jungle. Donley and his wife finally kicked her out. Court records show that he officially filed the paperwork Nov. 13, but he said she got the notice more than a month before that.

Meanwhile, Donley, 34, has bought his wife three rainbow finches. Their 10-year-old son, Brandon, named them Chi-Chi, Cha-Cha and Choo-Choo. He loved those birds.

One day, Brandon arrived at their San Moritz Drive home to find all three birds dead in their cage on the back porch. Their eyes were bulging out of their heads. It looked like they were strangled.

Brandon wept. Donley's wife buried the birds in the flower bed. And then things got worse.

About a week ago, Donley's wife went to take a bath and noticed that the water looked yellowish-brown. Donley went outside to check the water-softening system. Inside the filter, instead of rock salt, he saw a black mass of used motor oil.

This is the water they drink, the water they use to make baby formula for their 18-month-old daughter.

"Holy crap," he said.

He cleaned up the spill and called the Sheriff's Office. He is convinced that his mother is to blame. He said she once bragged to him about putting sugar in someone's gas tank.

But by now, there's almost no evidence. No one saw the intruder. No official saw the dead birds or the used motor oil. There is certainly no probable cause for an arrest.

The case has been referred to the sheriff's Major Crimes Unit, but it was unclear if detectives there can do anything with it.

On Friday, Donley and his wife were sprucing up his mother's former residence to prepare for new tenants. The memory of the birds and the oil still horrified him.

"It's very sick and demented," he said "One of us might develop cancer."

Thomas Lake can be reached toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245 or tlake@sptimes.com.