ECTOR COUNTY, TX (KWES) - A West Odessa man was stabbed Sunday evening by an unidentified suspect following a utilities dispute and transported to Medical Center Hospital in critical condition, officials said.
The suspect remained at large Monday night.
Relatives identified the victim as Richard Spinks, a Westridge Drive resident renting out a group of RV trailers adjacent to his home.
Deputies responded to the 9400 block of Westridge Drive around 4:55 p.m. and found him on the ground with a single stab wound to his lower right abdomen, according to the Ector County Sheriff's Office.
Sgt. Gary Duesler said investigators determined the suspect had been staying in an RV rented out by the victim.
"Witnesses said the tenant and the landlord got into an argument over utilities being turned off," he told NewsWest 9. "[The tenant] stabbed the landlord in the abdomen and then he took off. This escalated way beyond what it should have."
Authorities declined to release the suspect's name, age and physical description.
The knife-wielding tenant is not believed to pose a threat to the public, Duesler added.
NewsWest 9 spoke exclusively with the suspect's mother, Louise Pyle, who also described herself as the victim's girlfriend of approximately five years.
"I lost two of my best friends over one stupid decision that they made," she said. "I'm hoping that it's a bad dream and I'm going to wake up from it."
Pyle said she held both men responsible for the "unnecessary" dispute.
"Neither one of them stopped to think about anybody else [before letting the situation escalate]," she told NewsWest 9. "[The considered] nothing but themselves and their own anger. And what did that solve?"
Pyle said she feared for her boyfriend's life, her son's future and the incident's impact on their family dynamics.
"Who would've ever thought that your son is going to stab your boyfriend?" she asked herself incredulously. "I'm still in shock."
According to Duesler, landlord-tenant disputes occur "every day of the week" in Ector County and often involve disagreements over rent and utilities. However, he said the incidents rarely escalate to the level of violence seen on Westridge Drive.
"It's usually illegal for a landlord to turn off utilities, even if you haven't paid rent, but you just got to use a little restraint," he advised anyone renting property. "There's not a thing in the world, rent wise, worth getting hurt over."
Texas state law prohibits landlords from interrupting a tenant's utility service unless a situation calls for bona fide repairs, construction or emergency intervention, regardless of how the tenant pays for the service.
Texas renters caught in utilities disputes have the right to request a local court to immediately issue an order, called a "Writ of Restoration," to require the landlord to reconnect the service if it was disconnected illegally. Tenants are also entitled to damages and civil penalties in certain situations.