Crime

She lied about a rape and left her pets to die. It was ‘absolute hellish eternity,’ said her ex

Christine M. Gillum, 47, is serving a three-month county jail sentence for the deaths of six neglected pets in her Kennewick home. She abandoned the animals when she went into hiding after falsely claiming her ex-husband had beaten and raped her.
Christine M. Gillum, 47, is serving a three-month county jail sentence for the deaths of six neglected pets in her Kennewick home. She abandoned the animals when she went into hiding after falsely claiming her ex-husband had beaten and raped her. Tri-City Herald

The Tri-City father of 12 was twice arrested in November 2016 for “violent and hateful crimes” involving his former wife.

Each time, he sat in jail trying to understand how or why he was there and account for every second of every day to prove he never raped, beat or threatened to kill Christine M. Gillum.

It was an “absolute hellish eternity,” the man recently said in court. “I have always been taught it is ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ (but) disgracefully in my case that is the last thing I experienced.”

“I was branded as guilty from the moment the first lie was told and, after the first one, they just kept coming,” he added. “In this situation, it wasn’t until the fabricator got caught up in her own web that the truths would begin to unravel.”

Gillum, 47, was charged with lying about the alleged abuse by her ex husband, and later for abandoning her pets to die while she went into hiding for months.

Two years and three months after she first called police, the Kennewick woman stood before a judge in Benton County Superior Court for sentencing on her false reports.

Plea agreement for 15 days

Her ex only wanted Gillum to spend as much time in jail as he did both instances before he was bailed out, so the plea agreement called for a 15-day sentence.

Judge Carrie Runge went along with the recommendation on the malicious prosecution case, while noting that Gillum’s lies affected the integrity of the judicial system.

But Runge felt Gillum deserved more time behind bars for the deaths of three cats and three dogs from neglect. She was sentenced to three months in county jail for three counts of first-degree animal cruelty.

Gillum had told a concerned neighbor that there were no animals in her house while she was gone during the 2016-17 winter’s prolonged snowstorm.

bentondogs (2)
Benton County sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers searched the Kennewick home of Christine M. Gillum in the winter of 2016-17 and found three dead cats, three dead dogs, rotting food and trash. Benton County Animal Control

However, neighbors noticed a starving and cold dog in the backyard of Gillum’s West Willamette Avenue home, and saw animals peeking out of windows. They called for help when they realized Gillum had not been seen coming to the house to feed her pets.

Sheriff’s deputies and animal control officers — wearing gloves, protective footwear and masks — went in and found trash, decomposing animals, feces, rotting food, and both living and dead mice. The dog found outside survived.

No pets for Kennewick woman

“I felt that this family had been through enough and, for that reason, I made this plea agreement,” said Deputy Prosecutor Anita Petra. “Ms. Gillum was going to blame one of her daughters (for not feeding the pets) and, after she made the allegations in the first case, I felt that those children had been through enough.”

Petra added that it was horrible circumstances for those animals, so she asked Judge Runge to tell Gillum she cannot own or harbor any animals or live in a household where they’re present.

Gillum also was ordered to get mental health counseling at her own expense, and pay $807 in restitution to the Benton County Canine Shelter in Kennewick.

She asked to report later to jail, but Runge said the sentence needed to start immediately.

Gillum had entered Alford pleas to the felonies in October. Alford pleas mean she denied committing the crimes, but believed prosecutors had enough evidence for a jury to find her guilty.

Christine M. Gillum asked for a later report date to the Benton County jail, but was made to immediately serve her 3-month sentence.
The Benton County Justice Center in Kennewick

Rape claim led to malicious prosecution

When Gillum reported the sexual assault and beating in November 2016, she had bruising on her body that reportedly was consistent with the allegations.

It was only after her ex’s second arrest for allegedly sending obscenity-laced messages to her that investigators found evidence she had sent them to herself.

Detectives found store surveillance video showing her buying a throwaway phone later linked to the harassing text messages.

Gillum’s ex-husband read a four-page letter to Judge Runge, saying it was difficult to talk about “the absolute worst part of my life” but he owed himself and his children a sense of justice.

An Army veteran who had four deployments to the Middle East over his 20-year career, the ex said he came to realize that the worst of wars and tragedies were not behind him when he filed for divorce in 2013.

Daily fears of more lies

He said he didn’t understand why he was locked up when he showed investigators that at the time of Gillum’s abuse claims, his arm was in a sling from a severe shoulder injury. Or when she reported receiving harassing texts even though his cell was in police evidence.

His own felony charges were dismissed in March 2017, but the damage was done. He had to move because of court-ordered travel restrictions, he was reassigned at work which came with a pay cut, he made headlines in the local media and he was barred from seeing his younger children for a year.

He said he still lives in fear daily that Gillum will do something else.

“Since my release, to this very day, I am a prisoner in my own being and I don’t know if that ever goes away,” he said. “It is quite literally a petrifying feeling to know that someone can conjure up such a horrible case based on total untruths, continually fuel that fire with even more, and all for the sole intention, gratification and satisfaction of ruining someone’s life.”

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.


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