Community Remembers Terrifying Day Exotic Animals Were Released In Zanesville


Zanesville residents marked the one-year anniversary Thursday of the tragedy that took place at the Thompson farm.

Fifty-six animals were released onto the property of Terry Thompson before he shot and killed himself. Authorities were forced to shoot and kill 49 of them.

A small memorial stands in front of the gate where chaos was unleashed and tragedy unfolded.

“You know you reflect back on that day, I told people, they say ‘What do you do? How do you think about it?’” said neighbor Sam Kopchak.

Kopchak was one of the first to realize something terrible had happened on the Thompson farm Oct. 18, 2011. He barely lived to tell about it.

“We don’t really dwell on it,” Kopchak said. “As time’s gone by, we’ve just tried to go on and live. It’s been very quiet.”

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz now travels across the country to speak to other law enforcement agencies about the actions he and his deputies were forced to take that night.

“We got scrutinized very badly for what we did,” Lutz said. “Most of that was from out of state, from people who had no idea of what was there.”

Lutz said that the human toll could have been much worse.

“And that was the thing with this, I mean, we still had a victim,” Lutz said. “Terry took his own life, and he still had a family, and we respect that fact. And that’s got to be weighing on Marian, as well.”

Marian Thompson, Terry Thompson’s widow, has said very little since the tragic day. But yesterday, 10TV News received an email from Marian Thompson’s email address in which she writes of her “beloved late husband” who she said “loved each and every animal dearly.”

Thompson said in the letter that she hoped something good would come from the tragedy and that she was writing a book to talk about the events.

“It’s something we should never forget, because it was a terrible thing, but Zanesville probably never will be exactly the same,” Sam Kopchak said.

Lutz said that one good thing has come from the tragedy – the passage of Ohio’s exotic animal law.

The law that took effect last month requires owners to register their exotic animals and meet other regulations. According to the state, just 17 owners have completed registrations so far.

The law bans people from buying and selling dangerous wild animals. Other provisions such as permit requirements have yet to kick in.

Watch 10TV News and refresh for more information.