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  • Writer's pictureMacabre Emporium Pod

Episode 66 - Zanesville Animal Farm Massacre


The Zanesville, Ohio Animal Farm Massacre

Terry Thompson, Animal Massacre
Terry Thompson, the man behind the animal massacre, with a bear cub.

It goes without saying that most people (definitely not ALL people) are animal lovers. Some of those animal lovers will have a couple cats, or dogs. Maybe a bird. Maybe they will go outside of the “typical” housepet animals and have ferrets, or in our case at one point, rats. Some may even up that ante and have a skunk or trash panda as a pet. We pay to get into the zoo to see exotic animals that can never be house pets. They clearly fascinate us. But what happens when you have a fascination and love for animals that turns into an addiction and ultimately self-destruction? Stay tuned, you’re about to find out.

Terry Thompson, a former Vietnam Vet, had a massive love for animals. Exotic animals to be specific.

2008 - he had been an animal handler on a TV show called Wild Kingdom.

Aired first on NBC, then a couple different networks before landing on Animal Planet.

During his time as a handler, he was able to work with some of the world's most exotic animals.

Lent supermodel, Heidi Klum, access to a lion cub for a photoshoot.

He was successful in the exotic animal world.

Collected and cared for exotic animals for a large portion of his life.

77 acre farm property that held numerous different sized cages, shelters, crates that were home to many exotics.

His house on the property had been a regular brick farmhouse, nothing super fancy.

Lived there with his wife Marian and 3 Macaques that had their own room with a dirt floor.

They also shared that room with random motorcycle parts and an impressive gun collection - 133 of them in fact. 

Ranging from rifles, handguns, and an unregistered semi-automatic rifle - you know, super legal.

Terry had been visited by the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in 2008 due to him threatening a US Department of Agriculture inspector. 

They found a way on to the property, walked up to the farmhouse and met Terry by pointing a weapon at him with a laser sight on his chest.

Bragged about the amount of firearms he had in his house and that he would shoot anyone else that came on to his property.

When ATF showed up, Terry didn’t do what he had said he would (shoot everyone up).

Instead it only triggered Terry to run off inside his farmhouse and barricade himself in there.

Three years after that, Terry was convicted with federal firearms charges and sentenced to 12 months in jail. 

He served his time, and upon his release lived quietly until his 18th day of being a free man again.

Day 18 would be the day Terry decided to unlock all of the animals cages, use bolt cutters to cut fencing around the animals and his property and set them all free to roam a small Ohio town and cause chaos before putting a shotgun to his throat and pulling the trigger.

October 18, 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio chaos would ensue beyond anyone's imagination. Almost like Jumanji in real life. 

Around 5pm that day, Sam Copchak was taking a walk around his property.

Walked up towards his newly purchased half-Arabian pinto (horse) and noticed something strange as his horse was spooked.

Sam noticed a black bear walking along the fenceline. He wasn’t too shocked, as it wasn’t a huge bear, but shocked enough to put his horses away in the barn and head back home to call the police about a bear wandering the neighborhood.

Unable to even make it that far, as he took a few steps away from the barn he spotted something else - this time, it did shock him. 

On the other side of the fence that was close to him, just sitting there, was a full grown African lion.

Before Sam made it back home to his elderly mother, he knew there was a bigger problem at hand.

He knew about the animals at Terry’s farm, but wasn’t sure why they were showing up on his property.

Called Terry, but didn’t get an answer. 

Called his mom to tell her what he saw and asked her to call the police.

Sam’s mother wound up calling the police (7:15-7:39)

Same stayed in the barn with his horses and stood in a spot where he could watch what was happening outside.

To his astonishment, more animals began to wander onto his property.

He watched a wolf walk over, then a bear bigger than the first one. He saw a lioness walk through, and then a full grown bengal tiger.

Sheriff Matt Lutz was sitting in front of his TV by himself at 5:20pm that day. 

He had already been off duty and had eaten dinner by this point.

Received a call reporting that some of Terry’s animals had gotten out.

Didn’t really strike him as odd since some of Terry’s animals had escaped once or twice before - but mainly only for his horses - still it wasn’t unheard of that one of the exotics got out.

However, since the sheriff wasn’t busy, he decided he would head over and help. 

It took him 15 minutes to get to Terry’s property, and in that time the reports were filing in from all over the Zanesville area. 

There was an apartment building right on the other side of the trees behind Terry’s house.

In that moment he knew what he had to do, and that was to make the call that any animal coming off of Terry’s property needed to be shot. He didn’t even think twice about it.

At that same time, Deputy Jonathan Merry was only two hours into his shift. 

A few miles away serving a summons when he heard the call go out on his radio about a lion and bear being on the loose.

He responded on the radio that he would be en route.

When he got to Sam’s residence, he could see a black bear, a tiger and not one, but two lionesses just on the other side of the fence. 

He waited for Sam or his mom to open the door, and while standing there, watched a large gray wolf running towards him on the road. 

He dropped his clipboard and took off to his cruiser.

The wolf turned and ran up to the Copchak’s house, so the deputy had no choice but to get out, and follow it and shoot it, because by then, the shoot to kill order had already been given.

The wolf fell with the first shot.

After the wolf fell, Deputy Merry fired a couple more rounds just to make sure that the animal was indeed dead and wouldn’t pose a threat if Sam made it to the house, or Sam’s mom came to the door.

The deputy walked up to the wolf and inspected it himself to make sure the job was done, and it was. 

While he was inspecting the wolf, a call came over the radio that some of his fellow officers were on Terry’s property with a lion cornered. 

Ran back to his cruiser and took off towards where they were. 

His fellow officers only had hand guns, and he was the only one with a shotgun so he needed to get there ASAP.

Drove up the hill and came across one of the other deputies running back and forth at the end of Terry’s driveway. 

Deputy Merry had no clue what was going on, so he stopped to see what was happening.

He got out and reached for his rifle but it got snagged on the mounted computer in the car so he just left it. 

At least until he saw the black bear running straight toward him.

With just his Glock he took a shot at the bear, which dropped the bear.

The bear continued to slide forward on the ground and stopped dead, literally, seven feet away from where Deputy Merry was standing.

After that, the deputy got back into his cruiser and got the rifle unstuck, just in time to see an African lioness crawl under a fence that housed livestock. He watched it head towards a house.

He had no choice but to shoot her before she got to wherever she was headed.

He turned around, and took aim at a tiger and a black bear that were both walking along the road, but saw movement out of the corner of his eye so he followed it on foot into a neighbor’s driveway. It was a cougar. 

Thankfully he also saw other officers tracking it, and then shooting, because when he hit that driveway, he was practically face to face with an African lion. He shot it where it stood.

Deputy Merry was tasked with patrolling the road between Terry’s property and Interstate 70.

During his time doing patrol duty, he shot down two more lions, a wolf and a tiger.

Later on that evening, thermal imaging cameras found a grizzly bear and shot that down too.

Sergeant Steve Blake was the first one to arrive on scene. 

He had seen Deputy Merry chasing that first wolf, and continued on.

Went straight to Terry’s house and was met by John Moore, who was a caretaker on the grounds that was responsible for feeding the animals.

John had been tipped off by a neighbor about what was happening so he showed up. Together John and Sergeant Blake walked to the cages and had seen they had all been cut open or unlocked and opened.

The only animals that remained in their cages were two monkeys and one dog.

During their walk back to the road, the sergeant saw a body near the barn, where a white tiger was feasting on it.

The Columbus Zoo was holding an event for the International Rhino Foundation at the time all of this chaos was happening.

Experts from around the world had met up there to have a cocktail party.

Tom Stalf, the zoo’s COO said that one of the vets had come into the cocktail area and had nothing but panic on her face. 

She told him they had to leave, that Terry Thompson’s animals were out.

Tom had no idea who that was, or what animals she was talking about.

However, others there did know and quickly filled him in. 

Dr. Michael Barrie, Director of Health for the zoo knew who that was immediately as they had personally gone to Terry’s residence to inspect all of the animals just a couple years prior - when he went in with the ATF raid.

The zoo immediately got together its recovery team and were armed to the teeth with tranquilizer darts and actual weapons.

They drove 40 miles from the zoo to Zanesville to help with the animals.

They were also met at the gate by the caretaker, John Moore.

John was completely shocked and saddened by what had taken place and by what was currently still happening to the animals. He tried his best to give them an accurate count of how many animals were actually there and said 48.

John’s wife also helped with feedings once in a while and she said that Terry had just gotten some new animals - that the actual count was 56.

John then told Deputy Jeff LeCocq that the last time he had spoken to Terry was about 9pm the previous day.

John also spoke about how Terry said he thought his wife, Marian, was cheating on him. And that if she was, he would know when it happens.

Deputy Todd Kanavel arrived on scene and he was told about the body that was laying outside.

Sergeant Blake thought it was Terry.

They had to be sure, but couldn’t do so safely with all of the animals still on the loose.


A shooting party formed and SWAT, deputies, and sheriffs all went out on trucks to shoot down basically any animal they saw move. They were all mowed down one by one.

They got the white tiger that was laying on top of, and feasting on the body laying on the ground. It stood up, and just stayed standing. 

With it off of the person, they were able to positively identify it as being the body of Terry Thompson. (17:54-18:00)

With that, they all headed towards the south end of the property where it seems most of the big cats congregated. 

They continued to gun down each and every one of them that they saw. 

Deputy Kanavel went on to later state that he was physically sick shooting those animals, it affected him deeply, and he would have rather not, but they were all ordered to for the safety of the town.

The police went back to where Terry’s body lay to deal with the white tiger, but it was gone. 

They discovered bits of raw chicken all around him

So Terry planned to put the raw meat there to attract the animals to eat him after he shot himself.

The team from the Columbus Zoo had arrived, but they weren’t ready for what needed to be done. By they I mean the officers. So they had them come back the next day.

The whole night was nothing but chaos and shots being fired at these poor animals, and terror for the town of Zanesville. 

Thankfully not one single person was harmed, other than Terry’s dumbass.

The zoo team did arrive the next day, and were joined by Jack Hanna. 

If you’re our age, you know who he is.

Had a strong tie to Zanesville as that's where he went to school, thats where he enlisted for the army and spent his honeymoon.

There was a massive backlash against the cops for choosing for this all to go down as a shoot on sight project. People were OUTRAGED. (27:37-27:49) (27:52-28:00) (28:09-28:21)

But Jack Hanna was there to stand up for the police, stating how he knew what would happen if the lions and tigers were caught off guard by someone who themselves were caught off guard by the lions. It would have ended badly. 

Said the officers did what they had to, but that it was a sad day and something he would never forget for the rest of his life.

However, by the end of this total ordeal, the animals' bodies would be gathered and placed together by species to get an actual count. With that said, 17 African lions (eight female, 9 male), 1 baboon, 18 bengal tigers, 2 grizzly bears, 6 black bears, 2 wolves, and 1 macaque monkey were dead.

Jack Hanna would go on to say that once the animals were accounted for, that there was just a massive hole dug up on a hill and all of the animals were plopped inside and buried.

Due to everything that happened on Terry Thompson’s property, a 1979 law was amended in 2012 called The Dangerous Wild Animal Act. 

This part comes directly from the Ohio Department of Agriculture…

“In 2012, Ohio passed a law regulating the possession of dangerous wild animals and restricted snakes. This law generally prohibits any person from owning, trading, selling or offering for sale a dangerous wild animal unless the animal was owned prior to the law taking effect, and a permit has been issued by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Enforcement conducts approximately 24 investigations each year on behalf of the Dangerous Wild Animal program on those individuals who are in illegal possession of animals that have been identified as dangerous to the public. Enforcement agents work closely with local law enforcement who routinely encounter these animals at private residences including alligators, venomous and constrictor snakes, serval cats, and bears. Most of the cases in Ohio involve alligators and restricted snakes.”

While Terry Thompson set out on October 18th, 2011 to show his wife that he had the last say in their marriage, he also also showed the world what an ego-driven and careless asshole he truly was. He put his entire town in danger, and ultimately caused the demise of a lot of exotic animals who were only doing what nature told them to. 

But in the end, the law changed, and made it illegal for anyone to have these majestic beasts unless you were a zoo or a sanctuary. 

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