Exotic animal-owner Sam Mazzola was found dead at his home after what investigators are calling a “sexual role-play” gone wrong.
Mazzola’s body was reportedly found by an employee, and was restrained to his bed face-down with a mask over his nose and mouth and an object in his mouth. According to Chief Deputy Lorain County Coroner, Dr. Frank Miller, the cause of death was “asphyxia due to airway obstruction by a foreign body.” Both homicide and suicide have been ruled out, and investigators his death was “an accidental result of a consensual sexual act.”
Mazzola has been in the headlines before for his controversial ownership and exhibitions of exotic animals including bears and tigers. In 2010, one of Mazzola’s bears killed Brent Kandra, a 24-year-old employee who entered the bear’s cage to feed him. The bear was later euthanized. PETA blasted Mazzola on many occasions for his keeping of wild animals, and demanded he be charged with homicide for Kandra’s death. He did face charges of “violating a state law that requires him to keep track of the animals he owns.”
Mazzola also held “bear wrestling” matches in which people could come to the property and pay to wrestle one of the bears. The USDA took away his license to host the matches, but he was still able to own the bears and other exotic animals.
Following his death, PETA began calling for an immediate removal of the animals still on his property so that they would be properly cared for. According to FOX 8 News in Cleveland, the process of removing the animals has already begun. They report that “two of the tigers were transferred to a sanctuary in Ashland and the other two were taken to a non-profit animal rescue facility in Berlin Center, Ohio.” Mazzola’s employees continue to state that he loved and cared for his animals: “”The animals were his family to him. They were his kids. He treated them better than probably a lot of people treat their own kids,” said animal trainer, Jeff Cook.