A 65-year-old Spartanburg County, South Carolina, woman has been charged with felony animal cruelty for hanging her nephew's Pit Bull and burning its body after the dog chewed on her Bible, authorities said Monday.
Deputies said that Andy Fowler, the suspect’s nephew, called them last Tuesday to report that his aunt, Miriam Smith, admitted hanging his 1-year-old Pit Bull.
Officers found the partially burned body of the dog under a pile of grass with an orange electrical cord around its neck at the home on John Worthy Road in Pacolet. The animal control officer who wrote the report stated, “a smell of kerosene still hung in the air,” CBS News reports.
Dr. Dana Miller, vice president of animal cruelty initiatives for the Humane Society, performed a necropsy and verified that the dog died by hanging.
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Smith's mental state will likely affect what kind of penalties she faces, said Jaime Nelson, director of the county's Environmental Enforcement Department. He said the county had no prior reports of animal abuse involving Smith.
When questioned by police and animal control officers, Miriam Smith told them the female dog named "Diamond" was a "Devil Dog" and she feared it might harm neighborhood children, CBS News reports.
He said he was stunned by how flat the woman's emotions sounded as she recounted on tape what happened to the dog.
Long-time neighbors told News 4 that Smith is a religious fanatic. "She wasn't right in the head,” said John Worthy. “She read the Bible and interpreted in her own way. She's not a monster. She's good natured.”
"I don't care how cold it is. Every Saturday, she's on the porch reading her Bible."
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"I don't condone what she did,” he told WYFF4. “I've had dogs all my life. But I don't know if jail is the best place for her. She needs help."
James Nelson, director environmental enforcement, described case as "shocking." Nelson said, "This is one of top three animal cruelty cases in Spartanburg County." He said the county had no prior reports of animal abuse involving Smith.
Smith is charged with animal cruelty. She is being held at the Spartanburg County Detention Center. The Detention Center website lists the specific violation as "animal torture."
Smith is the first person is Spartanburg County to face a felony charge under South Carolina's tougher animal cruelty law. Smith faces 180 days or five years in prison if convicted.