A state solicitor said he intends to proceed with the case against a man accused of killing more than 300,000 chickens this year — even though two different judges have tossed out the charges due to lack of evidence.
Third Circuit Solicitor Chip Finney told Manning Live on Tuesday that he will present charges to a grand jury against 44-year-old James Lowery of Gable as his office seeks a formal indictment.
Lowery is accused of killing the birds by breaking into 16 different farms across Clarendon and Sumter counties and tampering with climate controls at those farms in February, causing roughly 320,000 chickens to die from overheating and exposure to freezing temperatures. Clarendon County sheriff’s deputies claim Lowery vandalized the farms in retaliation for being let go by Pilgrim’s Pride, a chicken processor that hires the affected farms. Sheriff Randy Garrett said Lowery had once been a contract farmer for Pilgrim’s Pride, but the company ended the deal due to poor performance.
Magistrates in Sumter and Clarendon counties dismissed the charges, however, saying law enforcement lacks evidence of “probable cause” that Lowery committed the crimes. Lowery’s attorney Chip McMillan had argued the only evidence prosecutors had against Lowery were cell phone records that showed him near some of the affected farms.
Garrett told WLTX-TV that he expects the grand jury to hand down indictments.