Charges Filed in Reptile Case
MILWAUKEE - Prosecutors charged Terry Cullen Thursday in a bizarre case that started as a sexual assault complaint and led to authorities finding dozens of exotic reptiles at a home and warehouse on Milwaukee's south side.
Cullen faces 15 counts, including sexual assault, false imprisonment and numerous charges related to mistreating the animals.
Cullen was arrested Wednesday morning. Cullen appeared in intake court Thursday afternoon. Bail was set at $10,000 and he was ordered to surrender his passport and to avoid contact with the victim.
According to a criminal complaint, the case involves a 24-year-old woman from Illinois who met Cullen at a reptile show and was interested in working with reptiles.
The woman told authorities that after several interviews, Cullen offered her an internship. Her mother drove her to Milwaukee in late February and dropped her off for what was supposed to be the first day of the internship. Cullen had offered to drive her back to Illinois after she had finished her work for the day.
The woman told authorities that Cullen made her sign paperwork including a confidentiality agreement. He refused to tell her his address and she, being unfamiliar with Milwaukee, had no idea where he was taking her. He explained to her that he lived in a very dangerous neighborhood.
As the day went on, the situation got more and more bizarre.
Eventually, Cullen offered to give the woman a backrub. She told prosecutors that she didn't want him to, but he insisted and laid on top of her.
The woman claims that, during the backrub, Cullen forced her to turn on her back, and he sexually assaulted her.
He eventually forced the woman to spend the night with him, taking her home the next day.
Cullen's secret stash of exotic creatures was exposed during the original investigation for sexual assault.
Both Cullen and a woman named Jane Ellen Flint are facing charges over the animals that were found. Experts say those animals were being kept in inadequate conditions.
Investigators noted disgusting conditions at the home where Cullen was living and a warehouse. Many of the animals were found in feces. Live animals were found intermingling with decomposing animals and carcases. Mold was growing on some of the turtles.
Cullen's attorney, Stephen Glynn says his client did not commit the sexual assualt. "That's a: 'I am not guilty. I did not do this. I will go to trial on it. I've got nothing to do with that," Glynn said.
Friends and colleagues knew Cullen kept alligators, crocodiles, snakes and spiders, but they just never knew how many.
"Without immediate intervention, these animals will be extinct," said Cullen in a YouTube video.
Police found more than 200 animals in the home and in the warehouse on the south side.
Cullen turned himself into police for arrest and questioning Wednesday morning. He was released later in the day.
"It kind of changes the look of the neighborhood when something like that happens here, you know," said one neighbor.