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TX Pastor Arrested, Labeled a 'Cat Killer'

It wasn't a leap of faith that killed the neighbor's cat -- it was a Texas pastor who threw the cat off a bridge, police say.

Pastor Rick Bartlett, 55, of Bastrop, Texas, faces animal-cruelty charges in connection with the alleged crime that also destroyed a young girl's faith, Austin's KVUE-TV reports. "She knows the man who did this is a pastor ... and she said, 'I don't believe in heaven anymore,'" the girl's mother said.

The 5-year-old girl was distraught over her 12-year-old cat Moody, whose corpse was found on the banks of the Colorado River. So how did she know the pastor killed her cat?

An alert animal-control officer connected the dots to solve the cat's killing, KVUE reports. Pastor Rick Bartlett had taken Moody to animal control after he'd trapped and caged the cat as an apparent stray. But the animal-control officer spotted Moody's collar with his owners' names and contact info.

Pastor Bartlett recognized the names as his neighbors and said he'd return the cat himself, KVUE reports. A few hours later, a passerby found the cat dead, about 50 feet below a bridge.

The animal-control officer who was called to the scene was the same person who'd spoken to Pastor Bartlett that day. The officer told police, and Bartlett was arrested.

Texas' animal-cruelty law specifically prohibits killing an animal that belongs to someone else without the owner's consent. Defenses to the crime include self-defense, defense of livestock being attacked by the animal, or legitimate scientific research. In Bartlett's case, none of these defenses seem to apply.

Police have not found any witnesses who saw Pastor Rick Bartlett throw the cat to its death. But that probably won't matter because Bartlett admitted the cat was in his care at the time, KVUE reports. Bartlett posted $5,000 bond and remains free pending a court date.

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