Arrest Made in Case of 300K Dead Chickens

James Laverne Lowery was a former Pilgrim's Pride employee
By Alex Tirpack,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 8, 2015 2:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – An arrest has been made in the bizarre case of 300,000 chickens that were killed in South Carolina roughly two months ago. Former chicken farmer James Laverne Lowery, 44, was arrested at his Sumter County home last night and hit with second-degree burglary and malicious injury to personal property charges, reports WLTX. Two months ago, 16 commercial farms in Clarendon and Sumter counties saw their alarm systems cut and their temperature control systems manipulated to a point where some of the chickens housed inside either froze or overheated to death. At the time, authorities suspected the crime was committed by a disgruntled ex-employee of Pilgrim's Pride, which owned the birds. Pilgrim's laid off 60 employees in advance of the killings, and Lowery was one of them.

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Clarendon County deputies say he was let go for performance-related reasons. "He was a grower for Pilgrim's at one time," says Major Kipp Coker, adding that Lowery may have been seeking revenge. "He hurt farmers in this county who work every day to feed their families that had no ax to grind with him, but yet he punished them as well," says Sheriff Randy Garrett. Officials have pegged the cost of the crime to area farmers at $1.7 million. Lowery could also face federal charges—one count for each of the 16 farms he allegedly attacked—of tampering with the food chain, reports the State. Each of those charges would carry a sentence of 20 years. (Read more South Carolina stories.)

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