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Trial in ‘Champ’ animal abuse case begins

Elizabeth James

The criminal trial of a Laurens woman accused of starving a dog nearly to death in 2018 began Tuesday at the Laurens County Judicial Complex.

The prosecution called two witnesses Tuesday morning with another who was set to testify during a short afternoon session in the trial of Elizabeth Lena James. James, 32, faces a felony charge of ill-treatment of animals.

According to prosecutors, James intentionally neglected the care and feeding of her ex-boyfriend’s dog, a Mastiff mix then called “Ace,” for 21-30 days. The emaciated dog, which has been renamed “Champ,” was discovered chained to a tree in James’ yard on Lisbon Road by a neighbor.

“I thought he was dead,” said Thomas Moore, a neighbor who went to check on the dog and took him from James’ property to his own after discovering that the dog was still alive.

The plight of Champ became an international story, going viral on social media.

Investigators said James starved the dog on purpose to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend, who left it in her care approximately a month before he was found by Moore.

During opening statements, 8th Circuit Assistant Public Defender Catherine West said reports that James purposefully starved the dog to get back at her ex-boyfriend were “fake news,” and the defendant has since been unfairly vilified through the media and on social media.

“(During this trial), you will listen to how the media took control of this case and how the truth became fiction and became fake news,” West said. “(James) tried to do (her boyfriend) a favor, and that favor turned into her worst nightmare.”

West and Public Defender Joel Broome also claimed James attempted to feed the dog and provided water, but it refused to eat, saying that its condition, which included maggot infestations and malnutrition, was caused by hook worms.

Moore testified that he took the dog, which was more than 50 pounds underweight, over James’ objections.

“When I scooped him up, he screamed because every bone in his body popped,” Moore said.

He said he gave the dog some food and Gatorade and called then Laurens County Animal Control Supervisor Giles Gilmer for help.

Gilmer was called to the stand by 8th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Warren Mowry following Moore’s testimony.

Gilmer, who left his position with animal control about a year after James’ arrest, said he wrote James a citation after taking the dog from Moore. Given the dog’s condition, he wrote James a citation.

At that time, animal control officers did not have arrest powers under the county’s structure. As code enforcement officers, they could only write summons for magistrate’s court hearings. Animal control officers now operate under the auspices of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) and have arrest powers.

Gilmer said he did not investigate the area where the dog was kept and proceeded with the citation and seizure of the dog after interviewing James.

Following a meeting with investigators from the LCSO, two days after the dog was taken from James’ property, the LCSO upgraded the charges to criminal and arrested James.

Gilmer took the dog to the Clinton Animal Hospital where Dr. Jenifer Dixon gave him the option of trying to save it or putting it down to end its suffering.

He said he chose to give the dog a chance, posting a photo taken by Moore on Facebook as he sought a rescue organization to take over expenses for its long-term care. Rescue Dogs Rock of New York City agreed to take over the dog’s care and expenses, renaming him Champ and raising funds for his medical bills.

A “Justice for Champ,” Facebook page appeared soon thereafter as the dog was transferred to an animal hospital in Columbia by the rescue for extended medical care.

“I had a choice to make,” Gilmer said of his decision against euthanizing the dog. “I looked in his eyes and saw he had the will to live.”

The trial is set to continue today as defense witnesses are called to the stand.

If convicted by the jury of six men and six women, James could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Note: On Tuesday afternoon, the defense objected to the absence of LCSO Maj. Chris Martin, who handled parts of the LCSO investigation and made statements to the media about the case. He is on vacation, and Judge Donald B. Hocker is weighing whether or not to continue the case until next week, allowing Martin time to return, or allow a video conference call with the officer.

62 Comments

  1. Chris Allen on May 26, 2021 at 2:29 pm

    Please find this woman guilty of abuse.

    • Miss P on May 26, 2021 at 9:51 pm

      No excuses

      This dog was abused !

  2. Joan Spencer on May 26, 2021 at 4:28 pm

    Please find hem guilty if this horrific case !!! Dog DESERVES JUSTICE !!!

  3. Lori on May 26, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Guilty

    • Rachel on May 26, 2021 at 5:04 pm

      I do not care what this evil excuse for a woman and her attorney say. If you cannot care for a dog, or amy animal, for whatever reason, you surrender it. You do not starve it and keep it chained outside. She deserves to go to jail, pay a fine, and never be able to own another animal. Simple as that.

    • Diane on May 26, 2021 at 8:51 pm

      This women needs the fill 5 year sentence and no early parole. What she did was evil and cruel and against the law. She needs held accountable, to starve a defenseless dog to get back at your boyfriend ,means it was premeditated, and she knew what she was intentelly doing.
      She needs to pay to the fullest extent of the law for this. 5 years will teach her the lesson, that you can not do this, and get away with this abuse.
      Make her pay for the horror and agony this dog went through, no animal should be starved to almost death. What that animal went through was execuriting and the dog and the people needto get justice for this.

  4. Trista Garner on May 26, 2021 at 4:33 pm

    Please find this monster lady guilty of animal cruelty to the fullest extent! I hope she receives the maximum!! JUSTICE FOR CHAMP!!

  5. Laura White on May 26, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    I am so sick of hearing her lawyer say that this sorry excuse was doing her ex a favor 🤬
    Even if she offered him food and he wouldn’t eat, anyone with half a brain could SEE the condition he was in and she did nothing to help him. She allowed him to suffer whether intentional or not. She is responsible and must be held accountable!!! #justiceforchamp

    • Debbie on May 26, 2021 at 4:44 pm

      Please give Champ the justice he deserves. Put her away!!! Please 🙏🏻

    • Dawn Hastings on May 26, 2021 at 6:03 pm

      She needs to pay the price and time for what she has caused this poor dog. His suffering was intentional otherwise she would’ve seemed help for Champ. JUSTICE FOR CHAMP

    • Lisa on May 26, 2021 at 9:09 pm

      She intentionally harmed and abused this animal. Thanks God for the neighbor and ACC for contacting RDRNYC. Poor fur baby.

    • Ileana on May 26, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      We need to send a message to all those heartless people who abuse all animals. She deserves to pay for the cruelty imposed to that poor soul who had nothing to do with her personal life. Guilty!!! She needs to pay. One look at her face says it all, she had no compassion towards Champ, therefore no compassion should be given to her.

    • Ileana on May 26, 2021 at 9:27 pm

      I totally agree. She is guilty as charged.

    • Jasmine Lee on May 27, 2021 at 7:39 pm

      She only got 90 days. Disgusting and shameful sentence considering what she did to that poor animal. 5 years jail wouldve given her time to reflect and perhaps show remorse. 90 days does nothing to stop this from happening agian.

  6. Diane Richmond on May 26, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Please lock her up…..She deliberately caused extensive suffering
    ****************
    Let’s have JUSTICE FOR CHAMP

    • Mary on May 26, 2021 at 6:49 pm

      Justice please

    • Michele Sere on May 27, 2021 at 7:37 am

      She deserves the maximum penalty. She knew exactly what she was doing to an innocent defenseless creature. Champ survived despite her. ***********

  7. Rae on May 26, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    She needs to be sent away for max sentence 5 years & $5k, God will take care of the rest……

    • Bonnie on May 26, 2021 at 8:49 pm

      I worked in animal rescue for 25+ years… THIS MUST STOP! *********** she could have surrendered him immediately , this was an intentional act.. This is a FELONY on every level…Champ is a cause worth fighting for! He did give up and neither will we! #JusticeForChamp

    • Theresa on May 27, 2021 at 1:06 am

      Anyone who mistreats an animal, any animal should be charged an held accountable. They should face a jail sentence & a fine maybe they would learn a lesson if this happened

  8. Connie Easter on May 26, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    Until people are held responsible for their intentional abuse and suffering of any animal , the abuse will continue. Please make her an example that animal abuse will not be tolerated.
    Innocent Champ suffered for days , no food or water . Deliberate abuse just for revenge . What horrible human . JUSTICE FOR CHAMP 🐾💙

  9. Al kerling on May 26, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    I have followed the sad story since the very beginning when RDRNY picked up his medical care.
    Even now years later, it’s heart wrenching what this poor dog endured while it was being starved – on purpose. The girlfriend fed her pets and gave poor Champ NOTHING to eat for weeks.
    Both the owner & the ex- girlfriend are guilty of abuse.

  10. Judith Bianchine on May 26, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    Please give Champ the justice he deserves. Sentence her for the longest time possible. Please also order her to have mental health treatment because no one in their right mind could do that.

  11. Kel on May 26, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    She intentionally abused this dog. She needs to be held accountable.

  12. Lori on May 26, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Guilty as hell !! And more animal abusers should be charged!! This is horrible . Champ you finally got out of that hell hole and sick abuser. Long live Champ❤️❤️❤️

  13. Susan on May 26, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Lock her up this was done deliberety after a few days of “refusing to eat” she should have let someone know or took it to the shelter….she should get the full extent! **********

  14. Tina M OSullivan on May 26, 2021 at 5:09 pm

    Throw the book at her we have to show this kind of people that torture of any animals will do time

  15. Janie Pridemore on May 26, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    Lock her up. Poor fur baby! Justice needs to be served.

  16. Denise Rivera on May 26, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    LOCK HER UP! The whole world has followed this case. SC’s 8th Circuit Assistant Public Defender Catherine West
    Public Defender Joel Broome should be ASHAMED – ************************ – the dog suddenly ate and drank when the neighbor rescued the dog from this vile human !!!!! SC FOLKS SHARE SHARE SHARE – DEMAND BETTER !!!!!

  17. Kim Roland on May 26, 2021 at 5:20 pm

    Please find her guilty and give Champ justice

  18. Anne on May 26, 2021 at 5:51 pm

    Jail her for abuse

  19. Bren on May 26, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    I’ve been following this case since the beginning. Champ was not just starved but neglected and was infested with maggots when rescued. She fed her dog but not Champ. She deserves much more than the maximum sentence allowed. I also follow Rescue Dogs Rock NYC, and they do this sort of thing, helping abused animals all the time. Thanks for their intervention.

  20. Sandy on May 26, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    Guilty as charged…people don’t make this kind of horrible treatment up…aren’t people who mistreat animals psychopaths???

  21. Teresa Blizzard on May 26, 2021 at 5:59 pm

    This was a horrible form of animal abuse. It was deliberate. Please give Champ the justice he needs and deserves. Please dont fail Champ again. Give her 5 years.

  22. Rener on May 26, 2021 at 6:12 pm

    The fullest extent of the law MUST be exercised. If not, THIS is why abusers continue…no accountability. Let her sit her very well fed face in jail for maybe 5 years & do not allow her to have ANY ANIMAL. I pray she isn’t caring for an elder or has children. I have NO SYMPATHY for ************** her.

  23. Mary on May 26, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    I want justice for Champ. We need this witness for the this horrific animal abuse case. This is too important to be on vacation

  24. Jmpenyak on May 26, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    To watch this dog deteriorate, before her very eyes, shows her absolute lack of basic human compassion. Someone who could starve an innocent dog and watch him suffer, to the point of near death, is a Monster! I have followed this case since the very beginning. I saw the pictures of Champ, when he looked like a bag of bones. He cried in pain from deterioration and starvation. His body shutting down…. and she did nothing, but keep him tied up. I watched videos of the medical staff working with him night and day, to save him. His will to live was very strong. His story will stay in my memory for the rest of my life. The terrible photos, his recovery and the photos of Champ, with his news loving family. The question is, How could any decent human being cause such suffering? The answer is, She is not a descent human being. ************ She deserves the the maximum sentence, that the law allows.
    Champ and all of the other abused and neglected animals deserve justice!
    #Justiceforchamp #stopanimalcruelty

  25. Debra Cole on May 26, 2021 at 7:13 pm

    Champ’s beautiful soul was left to die.CASE CLOSED!!!!!

  26. Lindawilliams on May 26, 2021 at 7:40 pm

    Justice for the dog !!!

  27. Patricia on May 26, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    I have followed Champ from day 1. This person starved Champ on purpose to get back at her ex. She fed her dogs but not Champ
    She needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, made to pay Champs Vet bills and never be allowed to own an animal again in her life!!!
    And even that is going easy on her!!!!

  28. Lori on May 26, 2021 at 8:56 pm

    Please, please give this horrible person the maximum sentence with a maximum fine. What kind of person does this to an innocent dog.

  29. Lisa on May 26, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    How anyone could watch an animal suffer like this is and not seek help is appalling. She abused this dog intentionally. I pray she is given a maximum sentence and for #justiceforace now #jisticeforchamp. – poor baby. Thank God for the neighbor saving him and Gilmer for contacting a rescue.

  30. Jordan on May 26, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    If you look at the rescue’s Instagram, the pictures are HORRIFIC. This dog deserves justice. So thankful for neighbors that pay attention and for animal control officers willingness to help! She needs to sit in prison.

  31. Sabrina on May 26, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    We now have laws in this country to protect against torture and harming animals… make an example here! Show that you cannot starve an animal to death and that there are ramifications, serious ones, this is a life! A being with love and care … and thankfully has been given a second chance and a life full of love! Shame on you you horrible beast I pray they lock you up for the full FIVE! And let this be a deterrent for all others that harm animals! You will pay a price.. not just financially but with your freedom.

  32. Wawa liu on May 26, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Just go look at the pictures. What (she) did to a kind, living, breathing animal that relied on her for everything. Champ was chained and tortured. She needs to serve time and never be allowed to have pets. Ever. The group that took care of Champ runs on donations and get very severe cases. If you want to give to a good cause, they are it.

  33. Alex on May 26, 2021 at 11:03 pm

    Guilty!!! Put her away …. No mercy!!!

  34. Lori McGee on May 26, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    I have followed this case! He’s an amazing dog dog that this lady torchered. She slowly let this dog starve! She didn’t break him He’s a champ! Guilty 5yrs. Lock up and the highest fine!

  35. Joanne on May 26, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    She is guilty!!!!!!!!! ************** How ****** could she starve that precious baby boy.💔JusticeforChamp. Your will to live is incredible thank God someone seen it in his eyes

  36. Shirley Arias on May 27, 2021 at 12:08 am

    5 years or 5k will never be enough for what that woman did! If the dog refused to eat any sound human being woukd have taken it to the vet to see what was wrong. She lies

  37. Sandi on May 27, 2021 at 1:12 am

    SHE’S GUILTY!!! I’ve followed this since the first day. She withheld medical care, food and water. She inflicted cruel treatment and caused pain & unimaginable suffering. She kept tightening his collar as he lost weight so, he wouldn’t get away. She knew exactly what she was doing. At anytime she could have tried to help him by calling a vet or animal control..ANYONE!!! but instead, she chose to continue the torture until his weak and starved body would eventually extinguished his will to live. She can’t be allowed to go free. And she can’t ever be allowed to own another animal. Champ doesn’t have a voice but, I do! She must be held accountable. Please, do the right thing, give her the maximum penalty allowed by law. Give Champ and his caregivers justice.

  38. Natalie Broadley on May 27, 2021 at 1:27 am

    This case sets a precedent. If she’s found not guilty, then it gives the green light to animal abusers and so the cycle of abuse and suffering continues.(She) needs to be held accountable for the horrific abuse which she knowingly inflicted..lock her up!

  39. Anissa Sanchez on May 27, 2021 at 1:46 am

    “unfairly vilified through the media and on social media.” This statement gets me angry beyond belief she’s upset because she got caught for what she was doing to that poor soul. I’m sure she didn’t think twice when she saw him wasting away by that tree!😡🤬

  40. Susan Wilby on May 27, 2021 at 2:44 am

    If this person is allowed to get away with what she so obviously did….it will be a travesty of justice. All life is important and we are judged as a society as to how we treat the vulnerable. What she did was cruel *******

  41. Melony A. DeSalvo on May 27, 2021 at 6:39 am

    She should be put in jail we have to start making harsher punishments for people like this I’m sick of animals or anything in this woman’s care suffering because of her.

  42. Karlyn Veltri on May 27, 2021 at 6:57 am

    The reason there is so much abuse to animals is because people are never held accountable for intentionally causing the pain and suffering of an animal, a living, feeling being. They always get off easy and it needs to stop. These animals have no voice until someone steps up to help them, thankfully someone did for Champ as he was suffering daily, wasting away chained to a tree with no way of helping himself. It’s horrific and this woman could see she caused his suffering and did not care! If she gets away with it what will she do next time?

  43. Terry on May 27, 2021 at 7:12 am

    This woman needs to be sentenced to the maximum sentence of 5 years , which in my opinion isn’t enough. And as far as the fine of $5,000, I’m sure that Champ’s medical care due to her abuse exceeded that . She should have to pay them.
    When will people learn that it’s not alright to neglect or abuse an animal.

  44. Gretchen Sheldon on May 27, 2021 at 8:31 am

    Even if Champ had a severe case of hookworms, she failed to get him medical attention!
    ************** That woman looked at that dog suffering, becoming more and more emaciated and did NOTHING. She could have taken that dog to the Vet, LONG before he got in the condition her was found in.
    *****************
    She should be given the maximum penalty, two fold.
    ***********************
    And why hasn’t the owner (boyfriend) ever mentioned in this atrocity? Because unless he had been deported, deployed, in the hospital or in jail, he should be held accountable too, for atleast neglect!

    • Nadine on May 30, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      You asked the same question I was thinking about, of where was the owner/ex-boyfriend in all of this. There was nothing in the article about why he asked this monster to look after his dog. Was he in the military and deployed, in a hospital or jail, working out of state for a few weeks; you know, some situation where he was not available to visit or check up on the dog, or did he just dump it on her and fail to return? It sounds like maybe he should have been charged as well. ********************************* People who abuse animals are lower than scum. I hope she has to pay for every single penny of this dog’s treatment and care. Blessings to Champ. I hope he has a lovely, healthy, long life.

  45. Bill on May 27, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    I had the pleasure of fostering Champ after he left the hospital. When he first arrived at our home he was extremely thin and very weak. I really have no words to describe the impression of when I first met him, seeing such a beautiful dog treated so badly. During his short six week stay with us, he only exhibited gratitude and love. He gained his weight back and blossomed into the beautiful dog that he should have always been. He was also one of the most intelligent dogs I have ever met which breaks my heart knowing that he surely knew he was being abused.

  46. Joyce on May 27, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    It’s important to set precedence with this case. Those who deliberately and viciously neglect a living soul need significant punishment, or others who are inclined to do the same thing will do so without fear of consequence. Champ recovered quickly when his starvation was addressed. Her action was criminal. If she could do that to this beautiful dog, she’ll do it to vulnerable others (canine and human). This isn’t an odd one-off, this is a glimpse into her dark and dangerous mind.

  47. Dee on May 27, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    I’ve also followed Champ’s case from the beginning. I hope the jury is not swayed by her defense attorney and his lies. If she couldn’t care for the dog, why not take him to the a shelter? Why did she try to prevent the neighbor from taking him? A mastiff who is such a picky eater he starves himself? LOL. Never happened.

    She starved that beautiful dog because for whatever reason it gave her pleasure to watch him waste away right in front of her. She didn’t abandon him, let him loose to find his own way, but kept him chained up so she could watch him die.

    It will be a sad day for South Carolina if this woman doesn’t do some jail time.

    • Robin on June 1, 2021 at 6:04 pm

      Sickening, inexcusable, evil and avoidable. Elizabeth James of Lauren’s County, SC, may you reap what you’ve sewn. May you starve! May that Golden Rule bite you **************

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