Authorities in Clarendon County, South Carolina, have arrested a man suspected of vandalizing 16 poultry houses operated by contract growers for Pilgrim’s.

James Laverne Lowery, 44, was arrested at his home in Sumter County, South Carolina on April 7.  Lowery was a chicken producer in Sumter County who previously had a contract with Pilgrim’s, but that contract had been terminated, Clarendon County Sheriff's Office Maj. Kipp Coker told the Sumpter Item. Lowery faces eight counts of second-degree burglary and four counts of malicious injury to animals over $10,000.

All of the incidents occurred in February at eight farms with contracts with Pilgrim’s. The incidents caused about $1.7 million in damages and resulted in the deaths of more than 300,000 chickens.

Clarendon County Sheriff Randy Garrett had earlier said that he believed the vandalism was done by someone with a working knowledge of poultry operations.


"They know how to turn the heat on or off to kill these birds," Garrett told WLTX. "They know what those birds require to live in those houses and they know how this operates."

Pilgrim’s had offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the crime.

"The family farmer is the backbone of rural America, her values and her economy," Bill Lovette, president and CEO of Pilgrim's said upon offering the reward. "The American family farmer makes safe, nutritious and affordable meals possible for millions of American families every day. An attack against the family farm should not and cannot be tolerated.”