Zanesville Animal Preserve Owner's Wife Wants Surviving Animals Back

Preserve owner Terry Thompson owed almost $70,000 in unpaid taxes.

ByABC News
October 21, 2011, 9:07 AM

Oct. 21, 2011— -- Terry Thompson, the Zanesville man who set his exotic animals loose before killing himself, owed almost $70,000 in unpaid taxes to the IRS and the county.

The wild animal enthusiast had two federal tax liens filed against him last year, according to the Associated Press, and other well-documented woes, including prison time, animal abuse charges and marital problems, offering new insight into what could have driven Thompson to commit suicide and send his beloved animals out to their deaths.

Dozens of animals, including Bengal tigers, lions, wolves, monkeys and bears were freed from the Zanesville, Ohio, animal preserve and had to be killed by police. Police stalked the animals through the night Tuesday, and by Wednesday afternoon, 49 of the 50 animals were confirmed dead, ending a potentially catastrophic threat to people in the area.

Three leopards, a grizzly bear and two Macaques were the only animals that survived, and they are at the Columbus Zoo, receiving around the clock care. According to zoo officials, the animals are "stressed," but eating, drinking, and playing with ball toys.

Preserve Owner's Wife Wants Surviving Animals Back

Thompson's wife, Marian Thompson, visited the surviving animals, which she called "her children," on Thursday and desperately pleaded for their return.

"This is a person that's very bonded to the animals," said Tom Stalf, a zoo official who helped transport surviving animals to zoo. "She wanted to see them and make sure that they were doing OK, and she missed them."

Though she wants the surviving animals to be returned to her, zoo officials said they will continue to care for the animals, and leave it up to the sheriff's department to decide if the animals will go home, to another facility, or remain at the zoo.

Marian Thompson, who shielded herself from reporters, told a zoo official that she is especially bonded with the surviving pair of primates. She revealed to Stalf that when she was still living at the farm the surviving female Macaque would sleep with her.

ABC News exclusively obtained images of Terry Thompson, trading kisses with a bear and caring for a camel on his farm just two years ago. The images of Thompson bonding with his animals stand in stark contrast to the chaos officials encountered when they arrived at Thompson's private preserve Tuesday evening. Stalf, who saw the dead animals sprawled across the lawn of the preserve and the conditions the animals were kept in, said the scene was haunting.

"I grew up on a farm so I've been around animals all my life and I've never seen that and I don't ever want to see that again," he said. "That was bad."

Photos of animals saved and animals slain in Zanesville. Some photos are graphic.

Police hunted down and killed the ferocious animals, set free by their suicidal owner.

According to police, just seconds after Thompson set his beloved animals free and shot himself with a handgun, an animal bit him in the head, and likely dragged him along the driveway where he was eventually found.

The bite wound on Terry Thompson's head was "consistent with the bite from a larger type cat," Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.

Thompson's body was found near a pile of chicken parts. Lutz said Thompson often used chicken to feed the animals, but it's unclear whether he had intended to draw the animals to his body.