Oct. 20, 2011 -- People hoping to profit from the death of nearly 50 exotic animals that escaped from a farm in Zanesville, Ohio, after the preserve owner shot and killed himself, have been contacting the sheriff's office, interested in taking the animals to a taxidermist.
"We've gotten calls and e-mails about what [is] going to happen to the animals ... could they be obtained for these types of things," said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. "There's a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to get these animals."
But Lutz is cracking down.
The location of the 49 animals buried on the property has not been disclosed, Lutz said, adding, "Anybody caught on that property looking for it will be charged with criminal trespassing."
Earlier this week officers stopped a group of people from stealing the dead body of a lion.
"They were taken into custody," Lutz said.
Marion Thompson, the widow of farm owner Terry Thompson, who was found dead in the driveway after shooting himself and setting his animals free, is now manning the property, watching out for thieves.
"Hopefully nobody would be that morbid that they will want to go to do that," said Lutz. "I can guarantee you one thing, if it does happen we will pursue them to the greatest length to charge them."
Thompson's wife, he said, is "very distraught" about the loss of her husband and animals, many of which "were like kids to her," Lutz said. "She probably spent more time with these animals than some parents do spend with their kids."
Farm Animals May Have Come from Auctions
Officers avoided a potentially catastrophic disaster, using pistols and high-powered rifles to take down nearly 50 of the dangerous animals. Only one animal remains unaccounted for -- a macaque monkey that Lutz says was probably eaten by a large cat.
It's unclear where preserve owner Terry Thompson found his menagerie of exotics.
"I've heard that some were rescues," Lutz said. "I've heard that some were bought at auction."
Officers didn't find any evidence that Thompson had been trying to breed them.