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Five charged in theft of lion carcass

Nov. 8, 2011 at 10:18 AM

ZANESVILLE, Ohio, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Four adults and one teenager accused of trying to steal a dead lion from an Ohio wild animal preserve last month were charged with misdemeanor theft.

The Muskingum County prosecutor's office said the adults face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine while the teenage male was charged in juvenile court, the Zanesville Times Recorder reported Monday.

Prosecutors accuse the five of trying to steal the body of a lion that had been killed by sheriff's deputies near Zanesville Oct. 18. The animal's owner, Terry Thompson, had released the lion and more than 50 other exotic animals -- including tigers, leopards, bears, wolves and monkeys -- from their cages on his property before he committed suicide.

Sheriff's reports indicated law enforcement officials stopped the men's vehicle after spotting headlights near Thompson's property.

No reason was given about why they tried to take the carcass, the Times Recorder said.

Officials said they haven't determined why Thompson released the animals or killed himself. Six animals that survived were taken to the Columbus Zoo.

Thompson's wife, Marian, has tried to reclaim the animals, but officials said they want to keep them at the zoo until they are tested to determine whether they have any diseases.

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