Animals Loose in Ohio: Man Wanted to be Eaten After Suicide
Terry Thompson, the Ohio man who released over 50 exotic animals Tuesday before taking his own life, was found covered in chicken entrails and blood, according to WKRC Cincinnati.
The disturbed man allegedly fed the wolves, black bears, lions, and tigers chicken parts regularly. However, this time before his grisly suicide, Thompson allegedly opened the animals' gates and smeared chicken parts on himself in the hope that he would be eaten.
Officers, upon arriving on the scene, immediately fired on the animals, which were believed to be both attacking Thompson and eating the remaining chunks of chicken.
The Zanesville exotic animal owner was found dead outside his home with a bite mark from a "larger-type cat" to his skull, says Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz.
Events surrounding Thompson's suicide were "very chaotic," states the Ohio sheriff. "Obviously, to take your own life, Mr. Thompson was not in the right state of mind.”
Nearly all the animals have been killed, with six of the creatures - three leopards, two monkeys, and a young grizzly bear - captured and taken to isolation at the Columbus zoo. The only animal unaccounted for is a monkey, which was believed to be devoured by one of the large felines.
Although the beasts are no longer a danger to Zanesville and nearby areas, various questions about the circumstances are currently left unanswered.
The first and perhaps most prevalent inquiry is why the troubled animal owner decided to take his own life.
Investigators refuse to speculate, but Thompson and his wife were known for financial struggles dating back to the 1990s. The couple had $68,000 in overdue property and income taxes, according to court reports.
The 62-year-old had also been recently imprisoned for illegal ownership of firearms. Thompson also had an imminent civil case concerning forfeiture of firearms, says the U.S. attorney's office in Ohio.
With the legal and monetary circumstances he faced, it's a surprise Thompson and his wife were continually able to feed and accommodate all 56 animals. Exotic creatures are notoriously expensive to sustain.
"You have to understand that these animals were like kids to [Thompson's wife]," stated Lutz. "She probably spent more time with these animals than some parent do spend with their kids."
Judy Hatfield, a family friend, revealed that some of the big bears and cats had been bottle-fed by the couple since they were cubs.
A neighbor, Fred Polk, said that the Vietnam veteran staved off some costs of feeding the creatures by finding road kill and gathering spoiled meat from supermarkets.
Polk says, "When [Thompson] came back from Vietnam, he was a little bit different... He liked animals more than he did people. He really did."
Ohio's lenient exotic animal laws have been considered as a factor in this incident. The Humane Society and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are now pushing for Ohio officials to instate tougher legislation regarding the acquiring and caring of exotic animals.
The Humane Society of the United States said Wednesday that they don't blame police for lethal methods considering the situation.
Lutz disclosed that Ohio Gov. John Kasich contacted him and acknowledged that state exotic animal laws should probably be changed.
"I'll do anything I have to do to make this never happen again," says Lutz.