Exotic Animal Owner Found Dead, Chained To Waterbed

Well, here's the weirdest news story of today: an Ohio man was found asphyxiated in his bedroom, and now his friends have to figure out what to do with his lion.

According to the Chronicle-Telegram, Sam Mazzola was found dead, "handcuffed and chained facedown on his waterbed" on Sunday morning. He was also wearing a mask and surrounded by "locks, keys and other items," and the County Coroner says he died of asphyxiation: "He had an object in his mouth and choked on it." The coroner has ruled out homicide and natural causes of death, leaving suicide or accident. If Mazzola's death was accidental, the circumstances seem to suggest autoerotic asphyxiation, or perhaps BDSM sex gone awry (though it's unclear if officials think a partner was ever at the scene).

And then there are the animals. Mazzola apparently owned four tigers, four bears, and twenty wolves, as well as raccoons, foxes, skunks, coyotes, and a lion. Last year, one of his bears attacked and killed a 24-year-old man named Brent Kandra, but according to NewsNet5, his lawyer doubts Mazzola's death had anything to do with that. Mazzola was apparently also in trouble for a probation violation involving a federal charge for illegally selling skunks (I am not making any of this up), but it's not clear if that was related to his death either.

Luckily for Mazzola's animals, he had already made arrangements for new homes for them in the case of his untimely death. Unluckily for their new owners, they'll need to apply for new exotic animal licenses, and the state has been taking steps to ban the ownership of exotic animals entirely. Meanwhile, a county sheriff's detective says that "nothing suspicious was found at Mazzola's house after his death was reported." I guess a lion, a pack of wolves, and a guy chained facedown to a waterbed don't count as "suspicious."

Sam Mazzola Was Found Handcuffed To Bed, Coroner Says [Chronicle-Telegram]
Fate Of Sam Mazzola's Exotic Animals Is Uncertain While His Estate Is Settled [Cleveland.com]
Coroner: Exotic Animal Owner Sam Mazzola Died From Asphyxia Because Of An Obstructed Airway [NewsNet5]