Five Charged Over Dead Lion Theft

Five people have been charged after allegedly attempting to steal the carcass of a lion from a compound in Zanesville, eastern Ohio.

The lion was shot dead last month after its owner, Terry Thompson, released dozens of his exotic animals from a private compound before killing himself. Sheriff’s deputies were forced to kill the lion and 47 other wild animals in what turned out to be a tragic big-game hunt. Bears and endangered Bengal tigers were amongst those shot dead.

Deputies have stated they were left with no choice but to shoot the creatures after they charged at authorities. Reportedly, the freed animals were also “dangerously close” to neighboring homes.

On Monday, police say they stopped four men and a teenage boy after the group, aged between 17 and 21, had been spotted loading a lion into a Jeep some hours after the animals had ran from their cages at the compound. The defendants were charged with a misdemeanor count of theft, and could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

By the time police had arrived at the scene of the crime, the dead male lion was inside the Jeep. It is unknown what the men and the boy were planning to do with the lion’s carcass.

The four men charged were Cody Wilson, 21, of Byesville; Richard Weidlich, 19, of Cambridge; Brian Matthews, 21, of Kimbolton; and Joseph Jakubisin, 21, of Cambridge, Haddox said. The identity of the teenager was not revealed due to his age.