COMANCHE COUNTY — Raising emus over the last 20 years has brought Carol and Bob Falk so much joy.
And now, excruciating heartbreak.
"We feel like we've lost a special part of our family," Bob Falk said.
In the very late hours of Valentine's Day, as Carol and Bob slept, their one-year-old emu named Miss Molly was taken from a secure pen on their Comanche farm, then was beaten and killed.
Falk still doesn't know exactly what happened, but what he's heard around this town 95 miles southwest of Fort Worth is devastating.
"It was tortured by having its eyes punched out, and as far as I can determine, the animal was choked and killed," he said.
On Wednesday, News 8 learned the Comanche County Sheriff charged 18-year-old Cassius Mankin — a football player at Comanche High School — with felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor theft in connection with Miss Molly's death. Seven others were also cited for criminal trespass and criminal mischief, according to a news release.
The same release says the sheriff's office "anticipates charges to be forthcoming, up to and including: Animal cruelty, theft, illegal dumping, criminal trespass and criminal mischief," but no one at the office could clarify who will be facing any additional charges.
A woman at Mankin's home Wednesday told us she had nothing to say about Cassius' arrest. He is currently free on $20,000 bond.
"This was not a prank; this was not kids' play. It was mean," Falk said.
The superintendent of Comanche Independent School District confirms that Cassius Mankin is one of the two seniors who had already been suspended from extracurricular activities because of this investigation; he adds the district is waiting for criminal paperwork to figure out what other discipline that student might face.
"Miss Molly was more than trash and garbage. Miss Molly deserves the respect we can share," Falk said.
So for now, Miss Molly's pen — and Falk's heart — remain empty. And until he sees justice, Falk said he'll continue to be the voice for his helpless bird.