Plummer said she never filed domestic violence charges against Lowe, pressured by his family not to do so. The family was already dealing with another scandal.
Lowe is the son of John Lowe II, a former Indiana pastor at New Life Christian Church who made headlines when a women, Bobi Gephart, accused the 65-year-old of sexually assaulting her when she was 16. A congregation member recorded the confrontation on Facebook Live, leading to national attention.
Plummer also did not seek justice for Shelby, even though Indiana is among the states with laws that recognize acts of animal abuse as domestic violence. According to the National Link Coalition, the others are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Utah and Washington along with the District of Columbia.
Arkow said traditional views of animals as property influence lawmakers decision not to pass laws protecting animals from domestic violence.
“Animals do not have legal rights in the legal sense of the word because animals are considered property,” he said, “and that is not going to change in the foreseeable future.”
Said Campbell, “Across the United States, if there are any penalties at all, they’re often minor and perpetrators know that and they capitalize off of that.”
According to the Animal Defense Legal Fund, “Our legal system still considers animals to be ‘property’ -- in many ways -- not much different from a table or a chair, able to be bought and sold, bred and killed for the profit of their ‘owners’ and in many ways without any consideration of their wants, needs, and sentience.”
“[Jeremiah’s] dad is from West Virginia,” said Plummer, “so it was not uncommon for them, if a dog was sick or if a dog bit someone to take the dog outback and shoot and put it out of its misery.”
‘I just remember one night he flipped out’
After the video of John Lowe II’s accuser confronting the then pastor was posted, several church and Warsaw community members wrote Facebook posts, accusing Jeremiah Lowe of sexual assault. One of them was Plummer, who divorced Jeremiah Lowe in June 2007.
In a May 27 post, Plummer wrote that her married life with Lowe was a “living hell.” She told MCIR that “Jeremy was both physically and emotionally abusive towards me,” sayng that he punched, choked and forcibly held her down during sex. If either dog defecated or urinated in their home, Plummer alleges Lowe would “rub her face” in the dog’s waste along with dragging her down her home’s hallway and throwing objects at her.
Efforts to contact Lowe have been unsuccessful. All phones associated with him are disconnected and he has taken down his Facebook page.
When asked to respond to Plummer’s accusations, Debra G. Lowe, Jeremiah’s mother and John’s wife, said “We don’t feel the need to answer the lies that are being said. Truth always prevails.”
“Do a thorough investigation,” she said in a text message to MCIR, “because people can say anything they want on social media without a shred of evidence to back it up. It’s nothing more than slander and false.”
Animals held a close spot to Jeremiah’s young life, Plummer said. “Jeremy told me when he was a child he killed one of his animals,” she said. “I think it was a mouse or a hamster, something small. He told me he didn’t want to wake up one morning and it be dead, so he decided to just kill it himself so he could control when it died.”
Plummer, a Syracuse, Indiana native, first met Jeremiah Lowe in 2000 when she traveled with her eighth-grade cheerleading team to watch a production of “The Glory and The Fire,” a religious drama on life and death, at New Life Christian Church. When she got her driver’s license, Plummer regularly attended the church and was in the youth group with Lowe. “He was very outgoing,” Plummer said.
Lowe and Plummer started to date in the summer of 2002 and decided later that year to elope in Warsaw. “I left my roommate a note and packed up some of my stuff and left,” said Plummer, “and drove back to Warsaw.” The first nine months of marriage were “not bad,” Plummer said, but Jeremiah struggled to maintain a job, as the two moved in with his parents. “We were both 19,” said Plummer, “dumb and stupid.”
In 2003, the Lowe’s marriage “spiraled”, Plummer said. She said Lowe had an affair when the couple moved into their Pipe Lake Point apartment. As he struggled to maintain a job, Plummer alleges that Lowe’s behavior became more drastic.
“I just remember one night he flipped out,” said Plummer, “and he didn’t hurt me, but he held a knife to his throat and was threatening to kill himself.” The couple soon moved into a temporary mobile home, after Lowe’s parents built a property close to the church. The marriage grew worse in the mobile home, Plummer said. “When we moved in there is when it really started to turn physical,” she said.
While living in the mobile home, Plummer returned to college, attending Grace College & Seminary part time. While writing a paper for class, Plummer says Lowe threw a computer disk at her, removing skin from her face. “I just had to make up an excuse that I bent down to pick something up and scrapped it on the counter,” said Plummer. “I never knew what was going to set him off,” she said. “I was terrified of him.”
Lowe and Plummer filed for a divorce in 2007. While Plummer and Lowe lived in separate locations, Rocky continued to live with Plummer. “[Lowe] still had the keys to the apartment and everything, and we were not legally divorced yet,” she said.
Before their legal case was finalized, Plummer told MCIR that Lowe took Rocky from the apartment and called her, demanding that she meet him at a Gas Station along U.S. 30. If she did not, she said he told her he would release Rocky onto the highway. “He kind of used him as a tool to get me to talk to him,” Plummer said. Rocky survived the meeting, living with Plummer after she divorced Lowe.
Plummer noticed, however, that Rocky’s behavior changed after Shelby’s death. “After everything happened with Shelby,” said Plummer, “Rocky was like never the same, because Jeremy had him tied up out there, so I know he saw what happened (to Shelby) … even when we were still in the apartment, he just had horrible separation anxiety and he was just scared.”
When Plummer moved to Southbend, Rocky exhibited anxious behavior, tearing down the house’s blinds and “freaking out” whenever Plummer left the house.
Plummer said one of the things regrets is never filing charges against Lowe.
‘It’s all about power and control’
While pets are often the subjects of domestic violence, providing spaces for them is a frequent challenge for domestic violence shelters across the United States.
“I think the main barrier is that most individuals who leave a domestic violence relationship want to be with the pet constantly,” said Abby Miller, executive director of Care Lodge in Meridian, Mississippi. “So, they don’t want to separate from them.”
Campbell notes the emotional attachment humans have to animals. “It kind of comes back to the idea of what these pets are providing for the human victims at the home,” he said. “While perpetrators are wanting to create fear, isolation and convince you that your life does not matter, pets work in the opposite way. Even though they don’t speak, They’re still speaking messages of love, support and that you matter.”
The Care Lodge is one of many domestic violence shelters without an “on-site” space for pets, but it has a partnership with the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Safe Haven for Pets Program.
Safe Haven partners with several different domestic violence shelters across Mississippi. The Safe Haven Program keeps animals of domestic violence situations in a variety of safe locations. “Neglect is the big one,” said Dr. Sharon Grace, director of the Safe Haven Program. “Poor nutrition, fleas, intestinal parasites and a lack of vaccinations. I would say that 95% are not current on vaccinations.”
Multiple Mississippi domestic violence shelters told MCIR that space and staffing are the primary barriers for having pets on-site. “Our biggest issue with opening up our shelter capabilities is that we don't have the room for that and we don't have the staff to manage a kennel.” “You have allergies, hygiene issues, a little bit of everything living in a communal environment.”
Arkow stressed how a cultural view of animals hurts people.
“As more and more people come to recognize, you’re not just hurting the dog,” said Arkow, “this is a risk to people, it’s adversely impacting the children. It is transmitting down to the next generation the idea that this kind of behavior is acceptable. It’s keeping a domestic violence survivor from leaving, it degrades the community standards that are respectable, it degrades respect for the law and of law enforcement.”
“It just makes me sad to think about her (Shelby’s) end and that I was not there,” said Plummer, “she was a comfort to me when all of the chaos was going on.”
One Mississippian who left an abusive partner with her daughter had to leave their five cats behind. “I had to leave my pets behind,” said the resident. “At the time, the person I was leaving was threatening to kill my pets if I didn’t come back,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous because her protective order against her former partner is set to expire.
“The abuser will exploit any advantage he can to control and coerce the family to show who’s boss,” Arkow said.
“It’s all about power and control,” said Arkow, “and by targeting the animals, by threatening the animals, he’s basically keeping her [the woman] trapped.”