Court Probation Deal for Former Animal Sanctuary Founder Linked to Cruel Treatment of Animals Stuns Advocates

By The Vanguard Staff

WATSEKA, IL – Animal protectionists here, about 90 miles south of Chicago, are still reeling from a court’s light sentence settled late in December against an animal sanctuary founder linked to a suspicious fire that killed about 50 animals, and more apparently buried in a mass grave.

The unusual court case, according to animal advocates, resulted in Corinne N. DiLorenzo, EARTH Animal Sanctuary founder, accepting a misdemeanor plea deal for 18 months of probation. 

DiLorenzo was arrested nearly three years ago on Christmas, originally charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty.

In a statement released to news media, advocates applauded what they called a “small victory…despite wanting a much harsher sentence.”

“Of course, we would like to see her go to prison for life, since more than seven hundred animals vanished from EARTH and have never been found,” complained Jodie Wiederkehr, Executive Director of Chicago Alliance for Animals.

Wiederkehr added, “However, not being allowed to own or possess any animals is key, and you can be certain that concerned citizens will be watching out to protect any animals from the sad fate that befell those who were put in her care.”

The advocates said a “suspicious fire killed nearly 50 animals at EARTH Animal Sanctuary in September of 2018 and then Melissa Pena, a former board member for the sanctuary, discovered a giant pit on the property filled with hundreds of discarded animal bodies, bones and skulls in the summer of 2019.”

The group reached out to county officials for help.  DiLorenzo was then arrested on Christmas Eve of 2019 after being indicted on one count of aggravated animal cruelty, a Class 4 felony.

“The Covid crisis along with many delays from her legal team dragged out the case, but DiLorenzo accepted an Alford plea in August 2022 for Misdemeanor of Cruel Treatment of Animals in lieu of a bench trial,” said Wiederkehr.

The CAA advocate said, “Cruel treatment of animals can never be expunged from her permanent record nor can she have the records sealed, and her conviction will be visible to anyone who does a background check on her.”

“It is still very difficult to get animal cruelty charges to stick in cases, and even harder in rural counties.  In a place like Iroquois County, this sentence is a victory and can also be a stepping stone for future cases,” explained Sandi Swiss, Vice President at Tiny Hooves Sanctuary.

Former EARTH board member Pena, who discovered the overflowing pit of animal bones and carcasses, noted, “There was an oblong-shaped ditch filled with bag upon bag upon bag of the remains of dead animals.  There were layers of animals, and after about an hour of ripping through bags with my hands, I couldn’t do it anymore.  I know that I have never thrown any of the animals I have ever loved in a ditch like they were trash.”

Marion Willetts, a Professor of Sociology, who has published peer-reviewed scholarly research on animal hoarding cases and who testified for the prosecution, said, “Only a small minority of animal cruelty cases are prosecuted and, for those who are convicted, the penalties imposed are weak.”

She added, “In my research, incarceration was rare, and probation occurred in only about two thirds of cases. Only about one in four hoarders convicted of animal cruelty are even banned from keeping animals. There does appear to have been an increase in recent years in the proportion of animal hoarders claiming to run or be affiliated with legitimate animal rescues.”

“Making this claim puts hoarders in a position to acquire more animals, whether that be from individuals, animal control facilities, or legitimate rescues. That appears to be what happened in this case,” Willetts said.

Wiederkehr said,  “Many, many people put their trust in this person and she deceived them.  She took in hundreds of animals and promised them a better life and a forever home, but instead she neglected, starved and killed many, if not all, of them.”

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for