Nixon man arrested in ‘Justice for Phoenix’ animal cruelty case


A Nixon resident has been charged with animal cruelty for the burning and torture of a small dog the community has renamed Phoenix.

Michael Villaneuva, 28, was served a warrant Tuesday, Feb. 27, for cruelty to non-livestock animals, a third-degree felony charge under Texas Penal Code 42.092, said Nixon Police Chief Miguel Cruz Cantu.

“The warrant is in reference to an ongoing case pertaining to ‘Justice for Phoenix,’ Cantu said. “Phoenix is a small dog that weighs under 20 pounds. She was located on the outskirts of Nixon where she was severely burned and tortured.”

Cantu said after an extensive investigation, information gathered led to the arrest of Villanueva, who was served with the warrant at the Gonzales County Sheriff’s Office, where he was already awaiting a court date after being arrested Feb. 24 on an “on view” charge of assault of a family or house member impeding breath or circulation.

Villanueva’s bond had been set at $50,000 surety on the assault charge when Nixon police delivered and served the warrant Tuesday for cruelty to non-livestock animal by killing, poisoning or causing serious bodily injury. He has not yet been magistrated for this charge, so no bond has been set for that at this time.

“Thank you to the communities of Gonzales, San Antonio, and Nixon for assisting in disseminating information about this heinous crime,” Cantu said.

Passion for Paws Memorial Animal Shelter, 4 Little Paws Rescue and other animal support groups in the Nixon area raised thousands of dollars to not only provide care for Phoenix, whose real name it turns out is “Cutie,” but also to fund a reward to find the person responsible for her injuries.

The rebranded Phoenix was discovered on Nixon Power Plant Road (10th Street), apparently having been doused with a flammable accelerant and deliberately set on fire. The dog had suffered other injuries, including ones from when she had tried to escape the blaze.

Editor’s Note: Criminal defendants are granted the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in a court of law.