Owner of Zanesville exotic animals was deep in debt

ZANESVILLE, Ohio - The owner of an exotic animal farm who set dozens of tigers, lions and bears free into the Ohio countryside had been deep in debt. Court records show Terry Thompson and his wife had money problems dating to the 1990s but that their debt escalated in recent years. They owed at least $68,000 in unpaid income and property taxes.

Thompson also just got out of prison last month after spending a year behind bars for possessing unregistered guns.

Investigators have refused to speculate about what pushed him to unleash more than 50 animals on Tuesday before killing himself. Deputies shot and killed dozens of the escaped animals.

Neighbors say they are shocked that Thompson did anything that could have harmed his beloved animals.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz says a coroner earlier confirmed Terry Thompson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and then was bitten. At a Thursday news conference Lutz said the autopsy showed Thompson had a bite wound on the head that appeared to have come from a large cat, such as a Bengal tiger.

It appears the bite occurred quickly after Thompson shot himself, according to Lutz.

Authorities say Thompson released his more than 50 animals before killing himself on Tuesday. Dozens of escaped tigers, lions and other beasts were shot by officers.

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