CLARENDON COUNTY, SC – A man accused of killing nearly 300,000 chickens was allowed to fly the coop — for now. Citing lack of evidence, a Clarendon County magistrate judge dismissed second degree burglary and malicious damage to property charges lodged against James Laverne Lowery, according to local news reports. Lowery was a former contract grower for the company whose contract was terminated before the incident occurred.

Clarendon County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Lowery at his home on April 7. He was accused of killing nearly 300,000 chickens grown under contract for Pilgrim's Pride Corp., a unit of JBS SA. He allegedly tampered with temperature controls to chicken houses on three occasions.

But the case hit a snag May 12 when Chief Magistrate Judge Percy Harvin said authorities did not have enough probable cause to launch a case against Lowery. The Clarendon County Sheriff's Department charged Lowery with eight counts of burglary and two counts of malicious damage to property.

In April, a magistrate judge dismissed similar charges filed against Lowery in Sumter County.