Tiger On The Loose

Fort Bend County Judge Sets $300,000 Bond For Alleged Tiger Owner

Houston police continue their search for the missing tiger as the animal’s alleged owner heads to Fort Bend County Sheriff’s custody.

Victor Cuevas sits during a hearing to revoke his bond, on May 14, 2021.

UPDATED 8:34 a.m. CT Monday, May 17: India the Tiger has been found, and sent to live in a North Houston animal sanctuary.

Original story is below:

A Fort Bend County judge revoked the bond for a man alleged to own a tiger that roamed a west Houston neighborhood earlier this week, setting a new amount of $300,000 after prosecutors accused the man of breaking the terms of his original bond agreement.

Victor Cuevas was arrested Tuesday and charged with evading arrest after police say the tiger was let loose late Sunday evening, before Cuevas allegedly wrangled the animal into his SUV and fled the scene.

Prosecutors on Friday attempted to revoke his bond on a separate 2017 case that charged Cuevas with murder.

The Friday morning bond hearing was a heated back-and-forth between prosecutors and Cuevas’ lawyer, Michael Elliott.

Off-duty Waller County deputy Wes Manion, who came face-to-face with the tiger, testified during the hearing. The deputy detailed the incident from his perspective, saying Cuevas claimed he owned the tiger, despite his lawyer maintaining otherwise.

“Don’t kill it, don’t kill it, don’t kill it,” the deputy recounted Cuevas saying. “That is my tiger.”

But Elliott spent most of his time trying to discredit the Waller County deputy, accusing him of being drunk at the scene and tampering with video evidence to make a police pursuit look closer than it really was.

Video shows a loose tiger, now identified as “India,” approaching a Waller County deputy.

The attorney also argued against revoking his client’s original $125,000 bond for the murder arrest, saying his client met the conditions of that bond: He made each court appearance that was scheduled for him.

“He's been here for more than three years, getting close to four years” since the 2017 arrest, Elliott said. “And he's showed up every single time.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, tried to frame Cuevas’ history as a reckless pattern of indifference to public safety. Christopher Baugh, with the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office, pointed to the latest incident in particular.

"Where is the tiger now?” Baugh asked. “There are members of the community who don’t know where it is. We have children in our neighborhoods who, they saw the tiger on television. We don't know where that is now.”

Judge Frank J. Fraley ultimately denied a request for no bond, and denied a subsequent request to set the new bond to $500,000, instead settling on the $300,000 amount.

As the court hearing took place, Houston Police Department Commander Ron Borza gave a separet update regarding the missing tiger. He said he believed that the tiger, named India, was still in the Houston area, and that the animal may have been passed around multiple times as police continued their search.

“I don’t know if he was just looking after the tiger or if he actually purchased it,” he said. “A lot of times when we’re going after people dealing in exotic animals, they start passing the animal from house to house with people that are involved in this trade.”

He added that both Cuevas and his lawyer had been uncooperative with law enforcement, and hoped that the new bond conditions would change that.

Cuevas will remain in Fort Bend County Sheriff’s custody unless he can afford to bail himself out.

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