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PHOENIX -- Two men pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony abuse charges in the death of their 73-year-old mother, whose body was found in Phoenix in the family's van with dozens of bug-infested animals.

The men's father was riding in the back of the van with his wife, and he also pleaded not guilty at his arraignment.

Alva Stout, 79, and his sons Gregory Stout, 44, and Alan Stout, 42, also face 34 counts of animal cruelty, Maricopa County prosecutors said. The men are scheduled to appear in court again Sept. 12.

Phoenix police said the van was carrying 12 dogs, 22 cats and a pigeon when Lola Mae Stout was found dead July 14 after firefighters and police responded to a call about a sick woman.

The animals were malnourished and infested with bugs, according to authorities who said the charge of vulnerable adult abuse alleges the three defendants put Lola Stout in circumstances that endangered her health.

According to police, the woman had prior medical conditions including strokes, high blood pressure, goiter and schizophrenia that required specific care.

Investigators said Gregory Stout gave conflicting information. He said his mother was alive when she got into the van, but also said she had collapsed while they were in Quartzsite.

In a jail interview days after his arrest, Gregory Stout told reporters that he did not know his mother had died in back of the van he was driving from the town about 120 miles west of Phoenix.

"We didn't hear nothing. We didn't hear her say anything," he said, adding that he was taking his parents to a homeless shelter in Phoenix.

"That was my intention -- try to get them into a better situation. Now, I feel like I'm being punished for it," he said.

Police said the sons were in the front two seats of the van, the parents were in confined spaces in the van's rear compartment, and the rear of the van was nearly full of animal carriers and contained "fecal matter, cockroaches and spiders."

Gregory Stout said the animals belonged to his mother.

"My mother, who you tell to get rid of the animals, refuses, so it just starts a never-ending argument," he said.

Associated Press,

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