A Kennewick woman has been convicted of lying about a rape and assault by her ex-husband, and abandoning her pets for months while she went into hiding.
Christine M. Gillum, 47, told a concerned neighbor that there were no animals in her house while she was gone during the 2016-17 winter’s prolonged snowstorm.
However, law enforcement and animal control officers later found three cats and three dogs dead from neglect. An outside dog survived in the backyard because neighbors gave it food and warmth from a heater.
Gillum entered an Alford plea in Benton County Superior Court to malicious prosecution and three counts of first-degree animal cruelty. All four charges are felonies.
The Alford plea means she denied committing the crimes, but believed prosecutors had enough evidence for a jury to find her guilty.
The judge made a finding of guilt based on the allegations and the plea.
Sentencing is scheduled Jan. 24.
Gillum has no criminal history.
Each charge can bring up to 365 days in the county jail. The plea agreement states that prosecutors will recommend 15 days in jail.
Under state law, the sentencing judge can order Gillum to “not harbor or own any animals or reside in any household where animals are present.”
Gillum also may have to pay restitution on the the cases.
The two cases stem from Gillum’s actions in November 2016, when she contacted Benton County sheriff’s deputies alleging her ex had sexually assaulted her, beat and choked her, and sent obscenity-laced messages including a threat to squeeze the life out of her.
Gillum 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, court documents said.
Her ex was arrested again later that month after Gillum claimed he was continuing to harass her.
Investigators asked for her cellphone to preserve the harassing text messages as evidence. She ignored the repeated requests for four days.
Then, after analyzing the cell, detectives discovered that she had deleted a lot of the content before handing it over, and had used an application capable of sending and receiving text messages with different numbers, documents said.
Detectives then found store surveillance video showing Gillum buying a throwaway phone that was linked to the harassing text messages.
The case against her ex was dismissed in March 2017, and months later she was charged for knowing her former husband was innocent when she had him arrested twice on false claims.
Gillum left her house around the same time she made the false reports about her ex.
Neighbors first noticed the starving and cold dog in the backyard and took action so it wouldn’t freeze to death, court documents said. But it only was after a few months had passed that neighbors realized Gillum had not been seen coming to the house to feed the animals inside, which had been seen peeking out of windows.
The West Willamette Avenue home is in a Benton County “doughnut hole” near Canal Drive.
Deputies got a search warrant for the house and found trash, decomposing animals, fecal matter, rotting food, and living and dead mice, documents said.
A dead dog and a dead cat were found wrapped up and placed in cabinets, suggesting someone had been inside the home. A dead dog was in a cage in the garage.
Gillum claimed an older daughter was supposed to be feeding the animals, but the daughter denied being asked to care for the pets.