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ST. LOUIS • Police and members of Stray Rescue discovered Tuesday the bodies of five tortured, mutilated dogs left for dead at a recently vacant apartment house near Union Boulevard and Martin Luther King Drive.

One of the dogs had been choked, another burned and a third was found hanging out of a second-floor window at the brick, four-family building at 5321 Wells Avenue. St. Louis police received a call about the dog in the window, responded to the building and then contacted Stray Rescue, whose staff members discovered the decomposing bodies of four other dogs inside the apartment.

Rescuers also found chains and electrical cords used to restrain and strangle the animals inside the apartment. The building's front doors were boarded up with "No Trespassing, No Loitering" signs Tuesday evening. The upstairs window where one dog was found remained wide open, as did the second-floor back door. Weeds, knee-high grass and trash ruled the front and back yards.

Stray Rescue said graffiti was scrawled on the interior walls of the building.

A neighbor said the building was recently a haven for drug sales and prostitutes, with visitors coming and going at all hours. The dogs were there to protect against a police raid, suspected the man, who declined to give his name out of safety concerns.

But about two weeks ago, most of the men and one women living there cleared out, leaving one man and several dogs. The last man left before the weekend, but the neighbor could hear at least one dog yelping and barking for several days. By the end of the weekend, a foul odor began emanating from the apartment. When the neighbor saw the dead dog in the window, he called police.

Police said complaint report was filed but it was not clear Tuesday night if anyone had been arrested in connection with the animal abuse or what charges they might face. City building inspectors also examined the building.

The neighbor said a nice woman used to own the building and kept it in great shape, but the building had fallen into disrepair over the years. Other neighbors said the block was home to a wide range of criminal activity -- "hang around long enough, you'll see the show," one man said.

Stray Rescue is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to a criminal conviction in the case. Anyone with information can call Stray Rescue at (314) 771-6121.

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Patrick M. O'Connell is a reporter for and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.