Ohio man who freed exotic animals ‘had a plan,’ report suggests


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In the days before he released 56 exotic animals on his Ohio farm and then shot himself to death, Terry Thompson was agitated both over the departure of his wife and his impending confinement, according to the investigative report of the October incident.

He also reportedly said that he ‘had a plan.’

The report, released Tuesday night by the Muskingum County sheriff’s office to the Zanesville Times Recorder, includes statements from deputies who responded to the emergency call. It also includes an interview with John Moore, believed to be the last person to have seen Thompson alive. Their meeting occurred the night before Thompson took his life with a .357 caliber Ruger handgun.


The Oct. 18 incident touched off a flurry of questions about how exotic animals are cared for on private farms and what should be the regulatory role of the state.

Law enforcement officials ultimately killed 48 of the animals. The remaining few were captured and taken to a zoo.

Sheriff Matthew J. Lutz did not return telephone messages on Wednesday. The report doesn’t explain why Thompson decided to free the animals, but it does offer the clearest picture to date of the events leading up to the tragedy.

Moore, the caretaker on the farm, told sheriff’s investigators that Thompson said he had received a disturbing letter from his wife, Marian. She had left the farm in the spring but returned several times a week to check on things, Moore said.

Thompson reportedly said he ‘had a plan” and that Moore would know about it “when it happens.”

In addition to problems with his wife, Thompson was concerned about being confined to the farm on Kopchak Road, a condition of his release from federal prison Sept. 30. Thompson had been convicted of two counts of possessing illegal firearms.


Five days before his death, Thompson met Joe Moore -- a federal parole officer -- who told investigators that Thompson was “distraught” over the yearlong confinement.

The final report also includes the responding officers’ findings the night they arrived at the farm and tried to contain the animals, which had fled through opened doors and cut cages.

The roaming animals made it impossible to approach Thompson’s body, which investigators later said was apparently dragged 20 feet by an animal he’d freed. The animals had to be killed so that officials could reach the body, deputies said in their report.


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All exotic animals set loose in Ohio either killed, captured -- or eaten

-- Michael Muskal