The son-in-law of Dr. Robert Bearden was charged with murder Tuesday in the beating death of Bearden during an argument with the doctor, who was trying to get him to sign a divorce for his daughter.
John Birdwell, who is free on $75,000 bond, had been arrested last week on a charge of injury to an elderly person/serious bodily injury in the Aug. 12 assault at Woody’s Tavern in Fort Worth. The charge was upgraded this week to murder, according to court records.
The two men were in Woody’s Tavern when they began arguing over the unsigned divorce papers, according to an arrest warrant.
At some point, Birdwell is accused of head-butting the doctor three times before Bearden collapsed to the floor. The veterinarian was taken to a local hospital, where he died on the night of Aug. 13.
Fort Worth police said in the warrant that they made several attempts to find Birdwell on Aug. 14 and offer him an opportunity to make a statement, but he did not respond to phone calls and he did not answer messages left for him at his North Richland Hills home and place of business.
Birdwell’s wife, who is Bearden’s daughter, got a protective order against her husband last week just hours after he was released from jail in Fort Worth, according to court records.
The Star-Telegram obtained the warrant in the case. The warrant written by Fort Worth Detective M. Sones provided these details:
Bearden had been unhappy with Birdwell for stalling the divorce process. The doctor had asked his son-in-law several times to sign the papers.
A witness at Woody’s Tavern told police that the doctor and his son-in-law were arguing about the divorce, but Bearden was not aggressive. At some point, Birdwell violently grabbed Bearden and head-butted him three times, the witness said. The two fell, and Bearden was knocked unconscious and began bleeding from head injuries.
An 18-second video from Woody’s Tavern captured the attack, according to the warrant.
Before police officers arrived, Birdwell started to leave the bar, but another witness attempted to stop him from leaving. Birdwell bit the witness on the chest and left the scene, the warrant states.
When they arrived at Woody’s Tavern, at 4744 Bryant Irvin Road, police found Bearden, who was conscious, but he was bleeding from more than one location on his head. He was disoriented and confused, according to the warrant.
Bearden, 66, died at 7:50 p.m. on Aug. 13 at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, according to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office website. His cause of death was blunt head trauma and it was a homicide, according to the medical examiner.
The doctor completed his bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M in 1978 and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1984.
“Dr. Bob was a dedicated caregiver who made a significant impact on the colleagues who worked with him, the pets he cared for, and the clients he counseled,” according to Bearden’s obituary on the Martin Thompson & Son Funeral Home website. “He had a passion for hobbies, with his latest love being fabrication at The Shop with friends. Compassion, kindness, and caring were Dr. Bob’s life purpose. He found joy in his family, friends, and practice, serving with a sense of selflessness and humility.”
Bearden was on the staff at VCA Mercedes Place Animal Hospital in Benbrook, according to the animal hospital’s website.
Bearden is survived by family including his wife, son, daughter and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth with a Celebration of Life to follow.
In lieu of flowers, the Bearden family requested donations to either DFW Humane Society or Cancer Care Services, according to the obituary.