A Springfield man was charged Monday night with stealing a car from his mother-in-law, fleeing and fighting Effingham County deputies.
Making matters worse, investigators said, the man had his 20-month-old son with him.
Charles Lambert, 29, was charged with several felonies, including automobile theft, cruelty to children, child endangerment, driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance.
“We have no idea what sparked him to do this,” said Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.
A felony cruelty to animals charge was added Wednesday after investigators learned that Lambert also killed his mother-in-law’s cat.
“We believe he attempted to break its neck,” Ehsanipoor said. “Then he doused the cat in gasoline and set it on fire, killing the animal in his son’s toy wagon.”
Around 8 p.m. Monday, ECSO deputies responded to a report of an auto theft on Elbert Arnsdorff Road. A short time later, a deputy spotted the car on Highway 21 near Springfield-Egypt Road.
As the deputy approached the driver’s door, Lambert sped away.
“Due to the speed, reckless driving, and a small child in the car, deputies chose not to pursue him,” Ehsanipoor said.
Deputies located Lambert at his home on Turkey Branch Road. He refused to unlock the door for the deputies, but they kicked in the door and arrested Lambert, according to Ehsanipoor.
Lambert fled from deputies as they were adjusting his handcuffs, and they used a Taser to subdue him. In the process, Lambert kicked one deputy in the face, causing minor injuries, Ehsanipoor said.
“Meanwhile, his son is screaming and hollering,” Ehsanipoor said. “It was a bad situation.”
Lambert tortured and killed his mother-in-law’s cat prior to stealing the car, according to investigators. The woman found the cat’s burned body the next day.
“We’re not sure what possessed him to do that,” Ehsanipoor said. “My speculation is that he did it out of spite.”
Lambert’s charges also include felony obstruction of a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, escape and crossing guard lines with contraband.
Lambert was denied bond Tuesday by Effingham Chief Magistrate Judge Scott Hinson. He remains in the Effingham County Jail.