DOCUMENT: Animals, Crime

Knuckleheads Charged In Theft Of Lion Carcass

Cops had shot animal freed from Ohio compound


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Lion Carcass Theft

NOVEMBER 8--A quintet of young Ohio men were playing poker last month when they learned that dozens of wild animals had been set free in a neighboring city.

So the group piled into Richard Weidlich’s Jeep Cherokee at around 11 PM and drove the 25 miles from Cambridge to Zanesville, where cops had spent the prior five hours shooting lions, tigers, bears, and wolves that had been released by Terry Thompson from cages on his 73-acre property.

Joseph Jakubisin, 21, told TSG that he and his cronies planned to “photograph the animals” when they arrived in Zanesville. In short order, the group came across a dead lion, which was surrounded by three cars whose occupants were posing for photos with the dead animal (which had blood seeping from its head and mouth).

That’s when Weidlich, 20, and Jakubisin's cousin, 21-year-old Brian Matthews, decided to take the dead lion. Jakubisin said that it took the duo about 30 minutes of “messing around with it” to get the heavy carcass into the car’s hatchback trunk.

Jakubisin, who said that he and the Jeep’s other two occupants did not touch the lion, recalled telling Weidlich and Matthews not to take the lion because of “the simple fact that it is nasty.”

Weidlich had some “stupid ideas” for the lion, Jakubisin said, including making a “rug for his house,” or perhaps “stuffing it.” At the time, he added, Weidlich and Matthews were just “living in the moment.”

The attempted heist, however, was thwarted when cops rolled up and discovered that the men had “loaded up” the dead lion into the Jeep, according to a Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office report, and were “trying in fact to steal the lion.”

As seen above, a local TV crew actually filmed Weidlich standing outside his vehicle after cops interrupted the theft attempt.  

With the animal still in the Jeep, deputies escorted the vehicle to Thompson’s property. A rope was then tied to lion, and deputies pulled it out of the bloodstained vehicle.

The October 19 escapade resulted yesterday in misdemeanor theft charges being filed against Weidlich; Matthews; Jakubisin; Cody Wilson, 21; and a 17-year-old boy. Each faces up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine if convicted of the lion theft.

Weidlich, Matthews, Jakubisin, and Wilson are pictured above, clockwise from upper left, in photos from their Facebook pages.

Jakubisin first learned of the criminal rap lodged against him this morning as he was driving with his mother. After hearing a radio report that mentioned her son’s name among the accused lion thieves, Jakubisin said his mother asked him, “Why are you with your cousin, you know he is an idiot.” (4 pages)