NORTHEAST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida woman accused of hoarding scores of cats and leaving many of them to starve to death was sentenced to 364 days in prison.

7News cameras captured Cheryn Smilen as she stood in a Miami-Dade courtroom, Monday.

Following a plea deal with prosecutors, the 56-year-old learned she will spend the next year behind bars for acts of animal cruelty.

Smilen, who once devoted her life to saving animals, was found hoarding dozens of cats back in February 2018. Many of the animals ended up dying at her Northeast Miami-Dade home.

Animal activists who worked with Smilen said they feel betrayed and wish she would have reached out for help instead of going down what they called a dark path.

“She knew what she was doing,” said Christine Michaels. “She was supposed to be one of us. We network, we find an injured animal, we take it to the vet, who can foster it, who can nurture it, find it a home.”

“She betrayed the animals, she betrayed us, and that’s extremely unacceptable,” said Yatir Nitzany.

Prosecutors laid out gruesome details during the trial.

“I can tell you this is the worst animal cruelty case that I have had to handle, absolutely,” said prosecutor Helen Page Schwartz.

Prosecutors said Smilen locked cats in a hot efficiency with no water and no food. Many starved, and some even ate each other just to survive.

“It was horrific. The suffering that these cats endured is indescribable,” said Page Schwartz.

Detectives also described the efficiency as a torture chamber.

“I imagine that those who came upon that scene and assisted, from the police to the first responders, I think that is something that is etched in their memories forever,” said Page Schwartz.

After she’s released from prison, Smilen will be on probation for the next 15 years. She will also be banned from owning or trying to rescue any animals in the area.

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