Bastrop Christian Church Pastor Rick Bartlett is already facing criminal charges for killing a neighbor’s cat in January. Now the embattled preacher and Bastrop Police Department Chaplain is facing a lawsuit from the cat’s owners.
Sarah and Eddy Bell filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Rev. Bartlett and his wife Tina. The suit accuses the couple of theft and negligence in the death of the Bell’s cat named Moody.
“Filing the lawsuit gives us an opportunity to search for evidence related to our claims and prepare for a jury trial to obtain justice for Moody and Sarah, Eddy, and their two children,” said attorney Bill Aleshire in an email.
Rev. Bartlett was charged by police in January with cruelty to non-livestock animals after Moody was found severely injured underneath the Loop 150 bridge in Bastrop. The cat later died.
A veterinarian determined that Moody suffered lung damage from blunt force trauma and that his injuries were not consistent with with being hit by a car.
The Bell’s and police suspect that Rev. Bartlett tossed Moody off the bridge.
In a statement to police, Rev. Bartlett said that he had trapped the cat on Martin Luther King Day. Animal Control was closed, so he left Moody in the trap. The police affidavit says that “Bartlett stated he forgot about the cat until he was putting the trash can back inside the garage. Bartlett did not say he attempted to feed or water the cat.”
On the following (Tuesday) morning, Bartlett admits that he left for work and forgot about Moody until later that afternoon. At that point the cat had not had food or water in 24-hours.
Bartlett took Moody to Animal Control and met with Officer Susan Keys in the parking lot of the Bastrop Police Department. Noticing that Moody wore a collar with tags, Keys informed Bartlett that she would return the cat to its family, three houses down from Bartlett’s home. Bartlett volunteered to return the cat instead. The police affidavit notes that “Animal Officer Keys was never given any indication that he would release the cat anywhere besides his neighborhood”.
Bartlett then put Moody’s cage in the back of his pickup and left. Keys reportedly later told the Bells that she trusted Bartlett because he served as a volunteer chaplain for the Bastrop Police Department.
The next statements Barltett gave police are somewhat strange. According to the affidavit, “Bartlett then stated he was extremely stressed and angry because of personal issues and feeling that no one was taking responsibility for the cat. Therefore, he untied the bungee cord the cage was attached to and opened the door to the cage and drove off with the intentions of the cat jumping out of the vehicle while he was driving off.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. The whole case is also putting a bad light on the Bastop Police Department and Animal Control. The District Attorney’s Office told The Digital Texan that the Animal Control officer involved in the case should not of turned Moody back over to Bartlett and only did so because of Bartlett’s standing in the community.