Saluda man gets 22 years for tying stepfather to bed, beating him and letting him die


A Saluda man has been sentenced to 22 years without possibility of parole after pleading guilty to binding, beating and neglecting his elderly stepfather.

Donald Chewning

Donald Ralph Chewning, 53, of Saluda, was sentenced this week in Saluda County General Sessions Court after he pleaded guilty Monday in the death of the Rev. James Chewning, who was 79 years old and a retired Methodist minister. Formally, the charge leveled against Donald Chewning was abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in death.

Judge Frank R. Addy, Jr.  imposed the 22-year sentence on this charge, which is classified as a violent crime and is not eligible for parole.

“It’s hard to believe this could happen in America,” said Eleventh Judicial Circuit Assistant Solicitor Robby McNair in a statement after the sentencing. “Reverend Chewning was a hostage in his own house, confined to his bed, where he was beaten, tortured, and left without medical care. We are grateful to see justice served today.”

Court records show that Donald Chewning’s wife Kathy and their daughters face trial on similar charges.

According to a release from the Solicitor’s Office, the investigation into this case began in November 2017, after the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) received a report of a “suspicious death” at a home on the 300 block of Calhoun Street, within the Town of Saluda. The victim was discovered by emergency medical personnel with bruises and blood on his face. First responders also found zip-ties in the victim’s bed, on the floor, and in a trash can.

An autopsy at the state crime lab in Newberry determined the cause of death to be blunt force trauma and medical neglect, including evidence of at least three distinct blows to the head that caused subdural hemorrhaging. The victim suffered from gangrene on his feet, along with signs of sepsis, and had numerous bed sores, according to the autopsy report.

Further investigation by SLED revealed that Donald Chewning had obtained “power of attorney” over his stepfather’s finances and that approximately $60,000 in cash had been withdrawn from the victim’s accounts over a 22-month period. When he died, the Rev. Chewning had only 93 cents remaining in his account.

Donald Chewning admitted to investigators that he had lost his temper and struck his stepfather in the head about a month before he died, according to the Solicitor’s Office release. He also knew that the victim was in poor health and failed to seek medical assistance, and he also knew that the victim was being bound and duct-taped on occasions, sometimes with rags in his mouth, the Solicitor’s Office stated.

The case against Donald Chewning was prosecuted by Assistant Solicitors Robby McNair and Bradley Pogue.

From staff reports / Posted August 28, 2019