By Matt Masters

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A Mt. Juliet man pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges Wednesday in Wilson County criminal court.

James Elwain Williams Jr., 58, pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and two counts of criminal information as part of a plea deal.

Wilson County criminal court Judge Brody Kane sentenced Williams to nearly four years of supervised probation. Williams was originally charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, a Class E felony, that stemmed from a 2017 incident at his home on Corrinth Road in Mt. Juliet.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Swink outlined the state’s case against Williams. Swink said on April 15, 2017, a Wilson County sheriff’s deputy responded to the home Williams owned but didn’t live in after a neighbor discovered two dead and decaying pit bulls chained in the backyard after the neighbor smelled something dead.

Williams told the deputy he knew the dogs were dead, but the dogs belonged to a woman who used to rent the home from him and never returned to get them after she moved.

Williams said he had no way to contact the owner, and the dogs were not his responsibility. Williams told Kane he did fed the dogs for a while, but he went to work a construction job in Gatlinburg and returned April 14 and found the dogs dead.

Williams told the deputy animal control had never been to the home, but animal control went to the home and got the bodies of the two dogs. They performed a necropsy on the dogs and determined they died from malnourishment.

The nearly four-year probation sentence was a result of four 11-month and 29-day sentences to be served consecutively.