Crime

She went into hiding after claiming rape. Now, 6 pets are dead and she’s charged with lying

Benton County deputies donned gloves and protective footwear, and county animal control officers wore knee-high boots and protective clothing when they entered a home with six dead pets. The owner is charged with animal cruelty.
Benton County deputies donned gloves and protective footwear, and county animal control officers wore knee-high boots and protective clothing when they entered a home with six dead pets. The owner is charged with animal cruelty. Benton County Animal Control

A Kennewick woman allegedly left several pets home alone for months when she went into hiding after falsely claiming she had been raped and beaten.

Neighbors cared for an abandoned dog in the backyard during last winter’s prolonged snowstorm, but it was only later they started seeing other animals peeking out of windows from inside the house.

Christine M. Gillum, when contacted at one point by a concerned neighbor, indicated there were no animals at her West Willamette Avenue home, court documents said.

By the time law enforcement and animal control officers got inside, three cats and three dogs were dead from neglect.

The only surviving pet was the outside dog, which had been given food and even warmth from a heater shared by neighbors, documents said.

“Animal control said this was the worst residence they have ever been to,” Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra wrote in court documents. “The deputies and animal control were unable to see the floor of the residence in most rooms due to piles of trash, clothes, mattresses, box springs, kid’s toys and fecal matter.”

On Thursday, Gillum, 46, pleaded innocent in Benton County Superior Court to three counts of first-degree animal cruelty.

Her trial is scheduled Nov. 13, the same date she is to face a jury on one felony charge of malicious prosecution.

In that case, prosecutors claim Gillum knew her husband was innocent when she had him arrested twice on false claims.

Gillum first contacted Benton County sheriff’s deputies on Nov. 11, alleging her ex had sexually assaulted her, beat and choked her, and sent obscenity-laced messages including threat to squeeze the life out of her.

She had bruising on her body that reportedly was consistent with the allegations, and said she had moved out of her house into a safe place so he could not find her.

Gillum’s house, which reportedly is owned by her parents, is in a Benton County “doughnut hole” near Canal Drive.

She ignored repeated requests over four days to turn in her cellphone as evidence, finally giving it to investigators who wanted to preserve the harassing text messages as evidence.

Later that month, her ex-husband again was arrested when Gillum reported continued harassment.

Several red flags caught the attention of deputies and Richland police during the investigation, leading to the discovery of store surveillance video showing Gillum buying a throwaway phone that was linked to the harassing text messages, according to prosecutors.

A forensic examination of Gillum’s personal cell showed she had deleted a lot of the content before giving it to detectives, and that she had used a texting application capable of sending and receiving text messages with different numbers, documents said.

The case against her ex for rape, assault with domestic violence and felony harassment with domestic violence was dismissed in March.

Gillum was charged with malicious prosecution two months later. Then the animal cruelty allegations surfaced.

Petra wrote in court documents that Gillum left her house in either October or November.

Neighbors first noticed the starving and cold dog in the backyard. One person bought a heater, plugged it in on their own property and stretched it over to Gillum’s yard so the dog wouldn’t freeze to death in the constant snowfall, court documents said.

Neighbors realized over several months that Gillum hadn’t been seen coming to the house to feed the animals inside.

Deputies eventually got a search warrant and once inside were “overwhelmed by the smell of trash, decomposing animals, fecal matter, rotting food and living and deceased mice,” documents said.

Deputies donned gloves and protective footwear, and Benton County animal control officers wore knee-high boots, protective pants, long-sleeve shirts, gloves and face masks.

One dead cat was found wrapped in a sheet and blanket under the kitchen sink, and a dead dog was wrapped in a pair of black pants under the bathroom sink, suggesting someone had been inside the home.

Two other cats and a dog were found dead throughout the house, and the third dead dog was in a cage in the garage.

Gillum, when interviewed about the animals, told deputies that an older daughter was supposed to be feeding the animals, documents said.

The daughter advised deputies that she was not caring for the pets.

Petra told the Herald that law enforcement recommended similar charges against Gillum’s daughter, but she elected not to file on the young woman.

“Ultimately I found the responsibility lied with Christine Gillum to take care of the pets,” she said.

Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531, @KristinMKraemer

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