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Neighbors of filthy home in Canfield report nothing out of the ordinary

Published: Thu, October 29, 2009 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Elise Franco

CANFIELD — Neighbors said Betsy and Brian Spin, who are charged with child endangering and animal cruelty, seemed like a nice, quiet couple.

Joan Schomer, who moved in next door to the Spins on Brookpark Drive five years ago, said she was shocked when she heard of the events that ultimately led to the couple’s arrest Tuesday.

“It really took me by surprise because I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary,” Schomer said. “I just never saw any signs that anything like that was going on next door.”

Brian Spin, 38, and Betsy Spin, 32, were arrested Tuesday on two counts of child endangering and nine counts of animal cruelty. Canfield police removed two children, ages 7 and 2, and 10 animals from 535 Brookpark Drive last Thursday after a woman driving by called to report several dogs that looked malnourished running in the street near the home.

Atty. Ross Smith of Youngstown entered not guilty pleas Wednesday on behalf of the couple. They are scheduled for a pre-trial at 9 a.m. Dec. 11 at Mahoning County Area Court in Canfield. Ross did not return phone calls requesting comment on Wednesday.

Detective Brian McGivern said police found the family living in a house filled with mold, garbage, animal and human waste.

Schomer said she never smelled anything that would make her suspicious of what was going on inside the house.

“There was no odor at all,” she said. “We’re on the opposite side of where I think the dogs were kept, but there was no odor, nothing.”

Harry Johnston, who lives on Brookpark two houses from the Spins, also said he did not sense anything out of the ordinary.

“To tell you the truth, I never really got that close,” he said. “I didn’t even know they had so many animals.”

Johnston said the only time he really saw the family was during the evening.

“They walked those kids every night. I could see them going up the street,” he said. “Other than that I didn’t see them.”

A former neighbor, who requested her name not be used, said she lived near the Spins for about five years when they lived at 655 Blueberry Hill. She said when she saw Betsy Spin in the yard with the older child, he was always covered head-to-toe in sweaters, pants and gloves.

The neighbor, who has lived at her residence for 32 years, said once the couple brought two pit bulls home she began to notice a smell.

“I figured she was just negligent with cleaning up after them in the yard,” she said. “I knew she wasn’t the cleanest person, but this is just unbelievable.”

Both said Betsy Spin always waved or said hello if she saw them on the street on in their front yards.

“They just seemed like a kind of a quiet couple that didn’t socialize a lot,” Schomer said. “It’s not that they were unfriendly, they just kept to themselves.”

The children are in the custody of Mahoning County Children Services for at least 30 days and will undergo evaluations, McGivern said. He said when removed from the home, the boys were very dirty but in good health.

Police Chief Chuck Colucci said the Mahoning County District Board of Health will decide within 30 days whether the house is fit to be refurbished or if it will need to be demolished.



1meganz(7 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

So last week was the first time anyone actually SAW the dogs? It was painfully OBVIOUS that they were neglected. So the neighbors never saw them before?

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2meganz(7 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

I want to know if the grandmother lived with them, if they ever actually put trash out and if those kids have ever been to a pediatrician. GOD only knows what the kids saw in that house. The psychological damage is unimaginable. How many dogs already died there -that no one knows about? Did the kids see dead animals around? There is something very evil going on in that house. If I child is covered up from head to toe at all times--what is hidden under those clothes? Signs of abuse? The story so far is horrific--imagine what went on that no one knows about yet.

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3Ginger76(178 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

If you live in a zoned area and people aren’t maintaining their home/yard, you can call your local zoning officials to "check up". It can be something from not cutting the grass to clutter....trash...etc.
Or you can put in a call to the cops to check up on your neighbors if something doesn't seem quite right. O-well if you are wrong. Look at the girl who lived in the backyard for 18 years - although that was a failure of law enforcement, I wouldn’t let tarps just lay around on kennels next door. I would call every single day until something was done.

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4quicksilver224(1 comment)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

This sounds like a classic case of overreaction by the Canfield Police Department. They most likely went to the residence on a 'concerned citizen call', found that the living conditions did not fit into the 'Canfield way of life' and 'needed' to change them. So, they go through the book to see what they can charge the people with and do it to get them out of the 'perfect' society. They don't care about giving warnings or asking people to change their ways before throwing the book at them. I lived in Canfield most of my life and have seen first hand the way Chuckie can go through the ORC to 'find' a charge. I can't blame them tho, they gotta be bored as hell as police officers in a town that's encircled by a magic bubble that keeps crime, pestilence, HIV and minorities out. meganz has no business asking if the children have been to a pediatrician...per HIPPA. The article never stated that there were any dead animals. Aside: every person sees dead animals in their childhood; it's part of growing up. "Evil" is a term we use to push away things we are afraid of and don't want to understand. Her use of capitalization shows where she is speaking from. Also, the word "filthy" is relative. Per the Picassa photos above (thank you foxtrot), I don't see mold, garbage, animal and human waste pouring out of the windows so I can't see how the house was 'filled' with it... maybe I'm reading too far into Mr. McGivern's words. I propose this question: If the house and family in this article were on the lower north, south, east or west sides of Youngstown, would you care about anything that this article is talking about?

P.S. - I guarantee that I can find 'mold, garbage, animal and human waste' in your house if I looked hard enough :)

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5cjblack(1 comment)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? There are a lot of things printed, that doesn't make them true! If she saw so much why was she unwilling to give her name? And for that matter five years ago the child would have been two years old, maybe she was trying to make sure he was warm outside? Everyone should have a right to face there accuser............Being a pathetic housekeeper is disgusting but it's a big step from child endangerment. Did you check out the pic's on the above link of the "filthy house"

Judge not lest ye be judged

PS - Did you miss the part of the article that said the boys were "dirty but in good health?"

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6Ginger76(178 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

did you see the pictures of those dogs? they pulled a dog out the mattress in the yard?

Aside: every person sees dead animals in their childhood; it's part of growing up. uhhhhh-not in the condition those dogs were in....

P.S. - I guarantee that I can find 'mold, garbage, animal and human waste' in your house if I looked hard enough :)
I don't know how you were raised but this isnt normal.

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7meganz(7 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm Guessing if dogs died on the way to the pound that others probably died beforehand. The ones that were there were BARELY alive. A pet that dies is one thing---starving neglected dogs are another. That's not normal. I'm wondering if kids had ever been seen by doctor--since they were covered in bug bites--I KNOW it's none of my business! I get what your saying--it probably wouldn't be all over the news if this happened in Youngstown. But I don't care where it happened--just that it DID. Animals and children were involved--both are innocent victims. I'm not in denial about Canfield--I know of drug raids in homes near the Green--Dairy Queen has alleged child porn guy running it--prostitution in motels and on and on. It's bad everywhere.

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8meganz(7 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

It wasn't just dirty--the officers had to wear special suits when they went in house--with masks so that they could breathe. Then they had to dispose of their uniforms because the smell was so bad. I know you can't believe everything you read. Which means just because the article states kids were dirty but in good health--doesn't mean that is true. They hadn't been evaluated by a doctor yet. Television interview by dogwarden tells it all--this is one of the worst cases he has ever seen. He was in the house--he would know.

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9philly11(2 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

neighbors please get a backbone. you guys new what was going on in that house.I feel bad for the abuse the kids and animals went thru . sometimes you need to speak up

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10Elise_Franco(2 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago


I can assure you this was not a case of overreaction on behalf of the police. I saw photos of those animals and the inside of that home. It was unlivable. Unfortunately because those photos are a part of an active investigation we weren't able to print them.

Elise Franco
Vindicator Staff Writer

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11Ginger76(178 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago


I can assure you this was not a case of overreaction on behalf of the police. I saw photos of those animals and the inside of that home. It was unlivable. Unfortunately because those photos are a part of an active investigation we weren't able to print them.

Elise Franco
Vindicator Staff Writer
I thought that was the case....and besides, random people are not just charged with those types of crimes without major evidence.....
"2 inches of maple syrup" made me want to choke back my breakfast.

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12gator(3 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

watch video...dog breaks my heart--
Thank you Elise Franco for speaking up!!!

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13busy(12 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

My intention is not to start arguments here. However, I pass this house 2 times a day or more. I would have never ever guessed or suspected anything.
Clearly the neighbors are not to blame, they did not cause this. Looking at the pictures I would deduce an elderly couple lives there that can no longer keep up with their landscaping. Something that is also fairly obvious is that they were not letting their dogs out due to the floor saturated with feces and urine. So my question is: how would the neighbors see the neglect if the dogs took care of their business indoors?
Any grown adult living in this situation deserves more than a misdemeanor. They need to pay to have this house destroyed and rebuilt...they also do not deserve the right to have children or pets.
Money is tight for everyone....however it costs nothing but time to let a dog outside, bath your children...etc. When your unemployed and/or working at home, how do you not have the time to handle these small, everyday tasks?
Money is tight for me....I bathe, clean my house, feed my pets and take care of a house, children and parents. Neglect is the call here period...on the adults living in the house.

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14Stan(9923 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Does anyone know what Brian Spin does for a living ? He seems to be lacking basic mental abilities . Is he mentally handicapped ?

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15gator(3 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

I agree money is tight. I don't think money was an issue here. Seems like mental problems or drug addiction. I see trash cans were in their yard--but they didn't use them. Common sense-for lack of a better word was definately lacking. Compassion was lacking..If all the info reported is accurate--they treated the kids like animals (covered in flee bites) and treated the animals like garbage. I bet you would agree that if money is tight--you don't continue to bring dog after dog into the home without the ability to feed it or take care of it. A woman driving by saw the dogs outside--the neighbors never did?

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16RFederer(116 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Some people are simply pigs. We had neighbors where I grew up in a nice middle class area locally who lived in similar conditions. The entire neighborhood knew and saw it. There wasn't the animal issues but the house was a pig sty. Obviously Mr. Spin's name is a shortened version of something. The Mother in Law any relation to the Holowach's who owned Holowach's Sparkle market?? I'm guessing yes since they apparently didn't need to work.

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17aeparish(669 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

How is it obvious that his name is a shortened version of something? All of the public records verify his name as Brian Spin, unless it was changed legally a long time ago.

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18RFederer(116 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Because Spin is not a typical name with roots in some foreign land. Remember all of us came from outside of America unless you're a native American. My educated guess is his name was changed from something like Spinkowski or Spinovovich! Spin has no roots elsewhere in the world.

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19MAP1976(7 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm curious where these animals came from. Strays, Craigslist, shelters? Did they take them in with good attentions? I just don't understand how you allow them to suffer and destroy your house, putting your health and children's health at risk. Something is very strange here.

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20sl035776(1 comment)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

RFederer, what does it matter if his familys' surname was shortened now or some generations in the past? Many immigrants' names were shortened/changed/misspelled when they first came to America by the officials at Ellis Island and other entry points. Unless your point is that you think he's hiding something by going by that name, I don't see what the name has to do with the whole sad story.

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21aeparish(669 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Okay, RFederer, that was the DUMBEST point anyone's ever brought up. What does the origin of his last name remotely have anything to do with this story?

What, if his last name had never been shortened, then maybe he would have kept his house a little cleaner? Come on.

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22rider(4 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Didn't the dogs cry or bark? You wonder if they had family or friends? Where did they work? I definitely think mental illness for sure. This story just makes me so upset!

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23RFederer(116 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

If the real last name was known maybe authorities could track down more information on Mr. Spin. Look him up on whitepages.com and the listing is for a P.O. Box. There is more to this story than meets the eye.

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24Da1nOnlyQuita(2 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

OH.MY.GOSH!!!! NOT IN CAAAAAN-FIELD! *turns nose up*

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25kids2028(87 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago



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26aeparish(669 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

Provided the public records are correct, it seems as if he's had some hefty financial problems. A lot of people who choose to ignore their debt switch to post office boxes so they don't have to worry about receiving correspondence regarding the matter.

Besides, there were people who commented on previous posts about this story who supposedly went to school with and/or knew Brian personally. I'm sure it would have been brought up by now.

But, I'm not one of those people who knew him personally (and by the sounds of it, you aren't one of them either) so what do we know.

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27philly11(2 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago


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28luvsdogs(70 comments)posted 6 years, 8 months ago

These poor children, these poor animals what horror they were forced to endure. Are these the same neighbors that lived next to Steve Croley the High Caliber K9 kennel raid last October and noticed nothing wrong? I find the neighbors not noticing anying out of the ordinary extremely impossible to believe.

Why are they being charged with misdemeanors? I heard the law changed after the kennel raid.

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29MandyGirl(2 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

As a young high school student (1978, 9th grade), I sometimes would walk home from school to Maple Street when I missed the bus or just decided to leave early (usually to watch The Price is Right with a bowl of chips and Kool-Aid). My route would take me through Brookpark (as I didn't care for the dumpy look of Main St. then so avoided that walk), and 535 was my favorite house! I don't know who the owners were during that time, but it was spectacular, and one of the best of its time. I cannot imagine that 31 yrs. later it would lay in ruin. Hollowach (2 Ls, not one) bought it in 1992, so what was it like then. Recently (end of September 2009 to be exact) I was reminiscing and took a drive down Brookpark and surrounding streets, never imagining what horrors I was driving by. This is not about Obama or Bush, but about a deteriorating neighborhood as the population ages and people without values move in. Canfield's new big houses are elsewhere now. Thought you all would enjoy the trip down memory lane. PS: The Spins first need some jail time, then the clutches of social services and legal nightmares for some time afterward. Kids should be adopted by relatives.

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30busy(12 comments)posted 6 years, 7 months ago

why do people think that these dogs were dogs for people to see?!!?
What is so hard to understand about the dogs going to the bathroom in the house, hence the saturated floors and deplorable conditions. CLEARLY they were not letting the dogs out. The neighbors cannot see dogs that are not outside!
These 2 'adults' should be in jail...there is no excuse for acting like that.

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