Man accused of cutting limbs off puppies can't find a defense attorney willing to take case, DA says

Wednesday, June 21, 2023
DA says no defense lawyer willing to take gruesome animal cruelty case
Justin Reilly Belton is accused of mutilating living puppies in his Baytown home, and prosecutors say no defense attorney is willing to take his case.

BAYTOWN, Texas (KTRK) -- The man accused of mutilating live puppies in Baytown was supposed to appear in court Tuesday morning. He didn't because, according to prosecutors, the court couldn't find him a defense attorney willing to take the case after reading allegations that were so egregious.

The court wouldn't tell us who the lawyers were that turned down the case, so ABC13 went to defense lawyer Matthew Sharpe to learn why lawyers sometimes say no to clients.

"You have a duty to your client to provide him or her with effective, zealous representation, so if there is something about the case that is going to interfere with your ability to do that, you shouldn't take the case," Sharpe said.

Justin Reilly Belton, 44, is charged with four counts of animal cruelty. ABC13 learned more about what allegedly transpired that led to Belton's arrest on Saturday.

According to court documents, Belton arrived at Sunset 24/7 Animal Hospital at about 6 a.m. that day with six puppies that had been seriously abused. Records state four of the six puppies had legs or paws that were cut off.

ABC13 will not get into more of the gruesome details, but investigators say "the puppies were crying in pain." Records state that one puppy was so severely hurt, it had to be euthanized.

Belton was arrested at the animal hospital.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Man charged, accused of cutting off several living puppies' paws & legs in Baytown home, records say

Justin Reilly Belton, 44, sits in the Harris County Jail after allegedly dismembering six living puppies in his home on Post Oak Drive, records say.

Authorities said they found a dead female dog, believed to be the puppies' mother, inside Belton's home on Post Oak Drive and other dogs living in unsanitary conditions.

Neighbors reportedly told officers they heard dogs barking and crying at about 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

Records state one neighbor even "peeked to see what the commotion was" and saw Belton walking outside "yelling and swearing."

Investigators said Belton's story about what happened kept changing. First, he said his neighbor's dog attacked the puppies. Then, he said he left them inside a cage, and when he came home, they were badly hurt.

Court paperwork states, "Belton's stories did not make sense and changed multiple times."

Records state the puppies' injuries did not appear to have been caused by another animal but possibly by a tool.

While Belton doesn't have a record of animal cruelty, officers did note they've had contact with him and that he's "known to be a heavy methamphetamine user."

Belton had a harassment charge dismissed in 2016 and received deferred adjudication on a felony stalking charge in 2012.

Belton's case was reset Tuesday. He's set to appear Wednesday morning.

Eyewitness News asked Sharpe, what happens if lawyers keep saying no to the case?

"There are a great many court-appointed lawyers in Houston and Harris County. Many of them do very good work, and they will eventually find someone to take the case, I assure you," Sharpe said.