There's A Whole 'Tiger King'-Style Saga Playing Out In Houston

by Christina Marfice
KHOU 11/Youtube

In a story straight out of Tiger King, a tiger that was first spotted in a Houston neighborhood is now missing — and its owner has been charged with murder

Remember the Tiger King days of the pandemic? Early last year when everyone rallied around the same batshit insane Netflix documentary and agreed on one thing: That Carole Baskin killed her husband? 2021, the year of the vaccine, has delivered us yet another gift: An incredible Tiger King saga is playing out in Houston right now, and as far as anyone can tell, there’s currently one man charged with murder and under arrest, and one tiger missing.

The whole thing started on Sunday night, when neighbors in a Houston neighborhood noticed a ginormous Bengal tiger just casually strolling around people’s yards. Obviously they took video.

They noticed that the tiger was wearing a collar, indicating that it’s someone’s pet. While there are no rules against owning tigers in Texas, Houston has a city ordinance that forbids residents from keeping them as pets.

Eventually, an off-duty deputy who lived nearby arrived on the street to check out neighbors’ reports about the tiger. Video taken by neighbors shows him, gun drawn, being stalked by the tiger, until someone opens their door and tells the deputy, “Ima get him.” There’s a tense exchange between the mystery man and the officer, but eventually, the man grabs the tiger and takes it inside.

That man, police say, is 26-year-old Victor Hugo Cuevas. They say he was renting that house in Houston, and that he was out on bond while awaiting trial after being charged with murder in 2017. Oh, and neighbors said that after Cuevas got the tiger back inside, they saw him load it into his Jeep and take off.

Over the next 24 hours, police searched for Cuevas and the tiger. They asked the public to keep an eye out. “Obviously, if you see a Cherokee with a big tiger in it, it’d be good to call us,” Houston Police Commander Ronald Borza told reporters Monday. On Monday night, around 8 p.m., police arrested Cuevas back at his Houston home — but the tiger wasn’t there. They still haven’t found it.

Michael Elliott, Cuevas’s attorney, told The Washington Post that his client didn’t own the tiger, and he didn’t drive away with it. Which begs the question — if it wasn’t in the car and it’s not in the house, then where exactly is it?

Ronald Borza, a commander with the Houston Police Department’s major offenders division, offered some insight that honestly just gives us more questions. He said there was an enclosure in the home’s backyard, but that it looked like the tiger lived mostly inside the Houston home.

“Looked like he was living pretty well,” Borza said. “Looks like he’s well taken care of.” Unfortunately, Borza did not elaborate, so we’re all left wondering exactly what kind of evidence points to a tiger living the high life.

To add to the insanity of this story, police now say that Cuevas also had two monkeys, and they are also missing. Does this mean there’s a band of jungle animals roaming Houston right now? Only time will tell.

As for Cuevas, he’s had his bail revoked. He’s being held in Fort Bend County jail and currently has no scheduled court appearances.