Grand Prairie snake owner kept cobra in homemade cage without locks, police say

Court records show the Grand Prairie owner of a cobra that got loose last summer kept the snake in a homemade cage without locks and had other venomous snakes inside his home.

According to 23-year-old Lawrence Matl's arrest warrant, the homemade cage he kept his West African Banded Cobra in was only made out of plywood and Plexi-glass. He’s charged with intentionally or recklessly allowing a snake to be released from captivity.

Part of the reason this case has taken so long to process is because this was a first for Dallas County and Grand Prairie

It started back in August with shock for the neighborhood when a six-foot venomous cobra was on the loose.

Wildlife experts searched for the snake, but it has never been found.

MORE: Grand Prairie missing cobra's owner arrested

A FOX4 crew went to his home Friday, but he declined to speak with us on camera.

Matl is out of jail but will still have to face a judge.

Neighbors are still upset over the whole incident.

"I understand if you’re out in the country, go for it. But in the city, where there’s kids around, there’s dogs. I mean come on, it’s just dangerous," said Sylvia Ramos, whose father lives across the street.

An arrest warrant affidavit obtained by FOX4 reveals Matl had not one, but three pet snakes in his home.

In addition to the female cobra that escaped, he also had a male West Banded African cobra, along with a pit viper. Both were confiscated with the help of a wildlife removal company.

According to the affidavit, Matl told detectives he had a two-prong locking system on the enclosure, but after reviewing body camera footage, investigators said there was no lock, just a sliding piece of plexiglass.

Back in August, Matl explained it to FOX4 as "a mishap the snake’s in-home enclosure."

"If we would have just had a lock on the cage," he said

[PHOTOGRAPHER: "There wasn’t a lock?"]

"There wasn’t a lock, and it could have been simply handled," he responded.

The affidavit said Matl told the officer he had just fed the snake and then walked out of the room for 15 minutes.

When he returned, the snake was not in its cage.

Matl expressed remorse back in August.

"I feel very bad for the community and everything. For the fears that they have to go through," he said.

The arrest warrant is dated August 21, three weeks after the snake escaped, but Matl wasn’t arrested until February 11.

Grand Prairie police said Matl was informed about the warrant in August. He then hired an attorney and agreed to turn himself in, but that never happened.

Police still didn’t believe Matl was a flight risk, so there was no rush to file charges.

If convicted, he could face a $4,000 fine, spend up to a year in jail, and lose his state permit to own a non-indigenous snake for five years.

"I’m sorry, but he should. I mean, you don't bring something dangerous like that around here," Ramos said.

Initially, Grand Prairie told FOX4 that Matl did have a license to own the snake, but a city ordinance prohibits owning wild animals and constrictor-type snakes within the city limits.

City code does not specifically address owning cobras.

RELATED: Venomous Cobra snake missing in Grand Prairie, search underway