- Lion was among exotic animals set free by owner, killed by authorities
- Four men and one juvenile were charged Monday in Ohio
- "They got the cat into the trunk, and we stopped them," sheriff says
Five people have been charged with attempted theft in Ohio after allegedly trying to steal the carcass of an escaped lion that was set free by its owner -- along with other exotic animals -- and ultimately killed by authorities.
Authorities apprehended four adults and one juvenile October 19 as they attempted to sneak the lion carcass into their vehicle, Muskingum County Sheriff Matthew J. Lutz said.
"They got the cat into the trunk, and we stopped them," Lutz said. "I'm not sure what they planned to do with it."
The five were charged Monday, he said.
According to sheriff's department documents, deputies stopped a Jeep Cherokee sport utility vehicle and found the large dead cat inside.
Authorites have not released the juvenile's name, but the men were identified as Richard Weidlich, Brian Matthews, Joseph Jakubisin and Cody Wilson, according to the criminal complaint.
If convicted, they could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
The attorneys for the men could not be immediately reached for comment.
Of the 56 animals released October 18, killed were two wolves, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one baboon, three mountain lions and 18 Bengal tigers, Lutz said at the time of the incident. Only a grizzly bear, two monkeys and three leopards were taken alive. A monkey remained unaccounted for.
Officials in Muskingum County closed schools as sheriff's deputies equipped with night vision equipment attempted to hunt down the animals in eastern Ohio after the suicide of the man at the farm where they lived.