Residents recount chaos in Zanesville, Ohio

| 10/19/2011

Truck drivers are used to reading various caution signs on their travels, alerting them to potential dangers ahead. Until late Tuesday, Oct. 18, few drivers can say they have been advised to stay in their vehicles because exotic animals were on the loose.

However, that was the scene along Interstate 70 near Zanesville, OH, late Tuesday, Oct. 18. Terry W. Thompson, 62, of Zanesville, OH, who was the owner of an exotic animal preserve, had released more than 50 wild animals before apparently killing himself.

OOIDA Life Member Michael L. Williams of Zanesville, told Land Line on Wednesday, Oct. 19, that he has known Williams for more than 30 years after buying a motorcycle from him in 1978 at the Harley-Davidson dealership he once owned.

Williams said he’s never been to the Muskingum County Animal Farm that Thompson owned, but said over the years there were many complaints about the place. 

“I’ve seen him on and off since 1978,” Williams said. “He’s just always kind of done off-the-wall stuff. I remember one time there was a pigeon problem, and he was urging people to bring their .22-caliber rifles and shoot them. I think he got in trouble for that one,” he said.

Recently, Thompson had been released from prison after serving a one-year-and-one-day sentence on federal charges for possessing fully automatic machine guns that were not registered to him, according to court documents.

Barb Huff, who works as an administrative assistant at the Love’s Travel Stop near Zanesville, told Land Line that the truck stop was buzzing with talk about the bizarre story from drivers stopping for fuel there.

“Drivers have come in talking about it,” Huff said. “They are all just really interested; it’s national news.”

Muskingum County Sheriff’s deputies were forced to shoot most of the animals after they arrived at the farm on receiving reports that wild animals were loose. That’s when they discovered Thompson’s body.

Williams said it’s sad that Thompson didn’t call the Columbus Zoo, which is about 70 miles from Zanesville, or The Wilds, a wildlife conservation center located about 20 miles way from his  farm, to see if they could take the animals before setting them free.

“I don’t know why he just turned them loose like that,” he said.

Area schools were closed on Wednesday as deputies searched for the remaining animals still at large overnight. At a press conference, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said 49 of the 56 animals on the property were killed; six animals were taken to the zoo. As of press time, it appears that only a monkey has avoided capture.