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Friday, October 17, 2008

Eight cats beaten, throats cut, thrown in dumpster by South Carolina College Student, Christopher Joel Campbell.

A Summerville college student, in Berkeley County, South Carolina has been charged with animal cruelty after he was accused of beating two cats and slitting the throats of six kittens. A witness told authorities he had given the cats to Campbell a day earlier.

Eighteen-year-old Christopher Joel Campbell is accused of leaving all the animals to die in a trash bin in back of a church.

Campbell was also charged with harassment in a separate case after allegedly sending his 15-year-old ex-girlfriend an e-mail that included a threat to her life.

Workers discovered the cats behind the Peace Presbyterian Church on September Seventh. The affidavit says three of the felines were alive when they were found but had to be euthanized because of their injuries.

He admitted to killing eight cats - slitting the throats of six kittens and bashing in the skulls of two adult felines.

During his court appearance on Wednesday, Joel Campbell also owned up to making threats against his ex-girlfriend.

The 19-year-old's plea in General Sessions Court left a judge with a crucial decision: Was this a young man who made bad decisions, as his attorney claimed? Or was he a dangerous person with the capacity of inflicting monstrous cruelty, as animal-rights activists and his former girlfriend's family maintained?

In the end the judge showed some leniency, handing down a sentence that means Campbell will be monitored for years to come but could be out of jail in as little as 90 days if he successfully completes the state's Shock Incarceration Program.

Goose Creek police arrested Campbell, a Summerville resident, in October 2007 after being called to Peace

Presbyterian Church on Londonderry Road. Four cats were dead inside a dumpster behind the church, while four others were barely alive. All were later euthanized.

In addition to eight counts of ill-treatment of animals, Campbell faced a harassment charge stemming from threatening telephone calls and profanity-laced e-mails directed at his ex-girlfriend, then 15.

Statements before sentencing generated two vastly different portraits.

Campbell's attorney, G.W. Parker, spoke of his above-average intelligence, his supportive family and his involvement at Ridge Baptist Church.

Jennifer Conlon, the ex-girlfriend's mother, enumerated the horrors her family had observed during nine months they knew Campbell: squirrels killed by the dozens, ducks driven over with a pickup, a cat killed with a shotgun.

Campbell told her family of years of abuse, a stark contrast from the loving family he described in court.

"That's not the person who was up there today," Conlon said. "His true character is going to come out again."

The defense attorney said the cats had been living in a neighbor's shed. Campbell agreed to get rid of them, but killed them instead of taking them to a shelter, he said.

"He made a poor decision," Parker said. "I don't believe it was done out of some deep-seated psychological need to inflict cruelty on animals."

Animal-welfare advocates called it one of the worst cases they have seen. Two gave statements in court.

After 52 days in jail, Campbell moved to his grandparents' home in Kingstree and devoted time to officiating youth sports.

After weighing both sides, Circuit Judge Markley Dennis imposed a sentence not to exceed five years in the state's Youthful Offender program on one ill-treatment charge. That included 90 days of boot-camp-style shock incarceration, followed by supervised monitoring.

On a second charge, Dennis handed down five more years of probation to take effect after the Youthful Offender program.

Campbell received credit for 30 days served on the harassment charge and credit for 180 days on the other ill-treatment counts.

Ninth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Bryan Alfaro prosecuted the case. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her office made no plea deal.

"This troubled young man intentionally committed horrific acts of animal abuse towards eight defenseless creatures," Wilson said in a statement.

Campbell's parents said he loved the outdoors and aspired to work for the state's Department of Natural Resources.

"We don't want to condone his actions," said his father, Joe Campbell, after court. "But we believe that Joel deserves a second chance."

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