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Bastrop, TX — Rick Bartlett, pastor of Bastrop Christian Church, was arrested Friday and charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in connection with the abuse and death of his neighbor’s 12-year-old cat, Moody.

Bartlett reportedly told police he had been having problems with feral cats invading his garden lately and had trapped one in a cage on his property on January 15. He went on to say that he had placed the caged cat in the back of his pickup and promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until three days later that he “remembered” the critter and headed down to the police station to hand it over.

An animal control officer at the station noticed a name tag including the phone number of the cat’s humans, Sarah and Eddy Bell, on the cat’s collar. The officer reportedly offered to take Moody back home, but police said Bartlett told them he’d take Moody back himself since the Bells were his neighbors.

Later that day, Moody’s body was found on the bank of the Colorado River, 40-50 feet below a bridge. The vet that examined Moody said the critter had severe internal injuries, but no external injuries consistent with being hit by a car.

“[Moody] was just laid out like a sack of potatoes,” said Greg Maynard, a veterinarian with the Crossroads Animal Hospital. “No obvious signs of trauma externally. No blood or nothing broke.”

The damage to the cat’s lungs, he said, was consistent with blunt force trauma, possibly caused by falling from a high level.

The animal control officer that took custody of Moody’s body was the same officer that had spoken with Bartlett earlier that day. She recognized the cat and automatically made the connection to Bartlett, which ultimately led to his arrest.

When questioned, Bartlett came up with a couple of different stories. He first claimed that when he returned to his truck later that day, the cat had simply vanished. In another story, Bartlett claimed that he had opened the cage door and drove off, expecting the half-starved and thirsty cat would just jump out of the truck and find it’s own way home. Neither story saved his ass…

Though no one has stepped forward claiming to have seen Bartlett toss the cat, he is still facing charges because he admitted that Moody had been in his care. He was released from custody on a $5,000 bond.

The Bells have been left with the task of explaining Moody’s death to their 5-year-old daughter.

“She also asked me where Moody is now and I said, ‘Baby he’s in Heaven,'” said Sarah Bell. “She knows the man who did this is a pastor at the Bastrop Christian Church and she said, ‘I don’t believe in Heaven anymore, Moody’s just dead.’”

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