A Murfreesboro widower who stored 114 dead cats in his condo freezers says he's a devoted animal lover who rescues dozens of sick and abandoned cats.

William ''Terry'' Davis, 72, said he was keeping the departed pets until he could properly bury them. He hopes to build a house and pet cemetery after settling a family estate court case.

''To charge me with cruelty to animals is totally, totally out of context,'' said Davis, in a phone interview last night. ''I love my animals.''

Davis, who lives at 331 Calumet Trace in the upscale Indian Hills golf course community, is free on $1,500 bail and faces 10 counts of animal cruelty. His dog, one of several live animals taken away Sunday, has since been reported in ''excellent'' condition by Rutherford County Animal Services.

Davis' nine live cats suffer from upper respiratory problems, which Animal Services experts say may be caused by stress or poor living conditions.

Rutherford County Animal Services investigators first looked into complaints about Davis two years ago, when neighbors at his other home in the Christiana community reported other cat problems.

Those cases were closed when Davis showed he was feeding and watering the cats, and he provided receipts and veterinarian bills documenting his attention to the pets.

''He takes good care of his animals; he's not crazy,'' said Christiana neighbor Diane Ludwig, who has known Davis for two years. ''He wasn't hurting the animals and putting them in the freezer like some mad man.''

Ludwig says she believes he just wanted to keep the animals close to him.

In Indian Hills, Davis often strolls the neighborhood, walking his dog.

The only thing unusual about him, said neighbor David Whitten, is that Davis often wears boots, a long coat and a hat, ''like a Texas rancher.''

For Davis, the latest case began Sunday afternoon, when Murfreesboro police responded to a complaint about an aggressive dog wandering around the neighborhood. An officer followed the animal through an open door of Davis' home, where the door had been locked but didn't close when Davis had left earlier that day.

Feces, papers, trash and urine were found throughout the house, authorities said. The odor was so strong that police initially suspected a corpse, Murfreesboro Assistant Police Chief Randy Garrett said.

The dead animals, including cats, kittens, dogs and snakes, were stored in Wal-Mart and Kmart bags, cloths, paper towels and boxes, authorities said.

A kitten was stored in a refrigerator drawer. Authorities say animals were stored alongside the food, but Davis said he had separate freezers for his dead pets. At least one animal had been stored for at least 3 years, according to one box with a date written on it.

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