Crime & Courts

Elderly Midlands man battered, bound before his death ‘knew the Lord’

Donald Ralph Chewning and Kathy Laine Chewning
Donald Ralph Chewning and Kathy Laine Chewning

The elderly Midlands man who was bound and battered before dying was a man of God and a community leader.

James Boyd Chewning, 79, died as a result of abuse and neglect at the hands of his son and daughter-in-law, according to SLED.

But before his sad death, Chewning was a Methodist minister, according to Rev. Sandra Whetsell, pastor of New Hope United Methodist Church in Rowesville.

“He was loved by everyone at The Oaks and St. Paul’s,” Whetsell told “He was a wonderful, wonderful mentor and guide.”

Chewning had been a minister for more than 50 years, Whetsell told He retired in 2004.

“Everywhere he went, he was well-loved. He was a kind and caring man,” she told

The reverence Whetsell held Chewning in makes how he died more difficult to comprehend.

His son and daughter-in-law, Donald Ralph Chewning and Kathy Laine Chewning, have been charged with Abuse or Neglect of a Vulnerable Adult Resulting in Death, according to an affidavit.

Donald, 51, and Kathy Chewning, 48, knowingly and willfully abused and neglected James Chewning, who lived in their home, according to the affidavit. That abuse included James Chewning being battered, restrained to a bed with zip ties. Rags and duct tape were used to cover the father’s mouth and eyes.

Donald and Kathy Chewning were booked at the Saluda Detention Center and will be prosecuted by the 11th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. They are charged with a felony, which carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison, according SLED agent Thom Berry.

Whetsell called James Chewning’s death “horrific.” It’s in stark contrast to how she said he lived.

“He was a wonderful, wonderful, kind Christian man. He knew the Lord and the Lord knew Boyd,” Whetsell told