Police: Caldwell County man uses rattlesnake in neighbor dispute


Highlights

Beef between neighbors ends with one turning iconic Texas wildlife into potential deadly weapon, police say.

Affidavit: “Deputies observed that the snake’s rattles had been removed.”

Police call it a botched case of “rattlesnake revenge.”

Two men who live in RVs next to each other in rural Caldwell County got into an argument last week that authorities say escalated, with one of them turning iconic Texas wildlife into a potentially deadly weapon.

It happened when one of them stumbled upon a rattlesnake, removed its rattle with his own teeth so its signature warning sound could not be heard, then turned it loose inside his unsuspecting neighbor’s home, according to authorities.

No one was bitten — except the snake.

The case baffled police and prosecutors, but Ryan Felton Sauter, a 39-year-old construction worker, stands charged with deadly conduct and criminal trespass of a habitation.

An arrest affidavit doesn’t say what sparked the verbal altercation between Sauter and his neighbor, Keith Monroe, who lives in one of the RVs along FM 1854 in Dale, about 40 minutes southeast of Austin.

WHO’S BEEN JAILED: See the latest mugshots in our booking blotter

Monroe told the American-Statesman and KVUE Friday that he and Sauter had a long-running dispute over several topics.

On June 17, the day of the incident, Monroe said the two men exchanged heated words. Later, Monroe said, he spotted Sauter leaving Monroe’s RV and confronted him about why he had gone inside his home without permission.

“He said, ‘You’ll see why,’” Monroe said. “I was trying to find out what he was talking about.”

He said he went inside and soon spotted the snake. It was about 3 feet long and had curled up on the driver’s side of his home.

“I freaked out,” Monroe said. “I couldn’t believe this happened.”

Monroe said he used a machete to kill the snake, then called the sheriff’s office. Deputies came to investigate, noting in an affidavit: “Deputies observed that the snake’s rattles had been removed.”

“They took pictures of the snake and everything,” Monroe said.

Detectives questioned Sauter before charging him, officials said. Jail records show he was still in custody Friday in the Caldwell County Jail with bail set at $7,500 for each charge.

Monroe, perhaps feeling a little snakebit, said he is being cautious as he moves around his house.

“I’m still in shock,” Monroe said. “Just can’t believe it.”



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