ELYRIA — Sam Mazzola, the owner of a bear that fatally mauled a man last year, said Tuesday that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization is distorting what happened at his Columbia Station facility for its own ends.
“They’re just wrong,” Mazzola said. “It’s just their way of trying to get people to go their way.”
Mazzola’s comments came a day after PETA renewed its call for Mazzola to be charged with reckless homicide in the death of Brent Kandra, the 24-year-old Elyria man who died of injuries he received in the Aug. 19 mauling.
Kandra’s death remains under investigation, according to Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office.
A Cuyahoga County Coroner’s Office report detailing Kandra’s autopsy details more than 600 wounds on his body, including puncture wounds, bruises and scrapes. The official cause of death was listed as multiple blunt and sharp force injuries and it was ruled an “accident while at work.”
“The evidence suggests that the bear played with the young man’s body like a rag doll for a prolonged period of time without any intervention,” PETA Director Delcianna Winders said in a statement released along with a copy of the coroner’s report on Monday.
But Mazzola said not all of the injuries on Kandra’s body came from Iroquois, the bear that mauled him. Some of the injuries, such as a gash on Kandra’s head, he said, came from Kandra’s escape from the cage where Iroquois was kept.
Mazzola has said Kandra crawled out of the cage through a gap at the bottom of the bars. He also said that he sustained bruises and a few cuts while fighting off Iroquois, who was euthanized shortly after the mauling.
“I did everything to get that bear off of him,” Mazzola said.
But Jule Hovi of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Toledo office, also cautioned Mazzola to take precautions to protect those who interact with his bears.
“Direct or free contact with dangerous animals such as bears is a recognized hazard that is likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees and others,” Hovi wrote in a December letter to Mazzola informing him of OSHA’s decision.
Meanwhile, Mazzola still is facing a misdemeanor charge for failing to keep proper records of the exotic animals he houses at his North Marks Road compound.
Scott Strait, the Elyria city prosecutor handling the case, said Tuesday after a pretrial hearing that the case will go to trial later this year. Strait said prosecutors and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife would not agree to Mazzola’s request that the charge be dropped.
Both Strait and Mazzola’s lawyer, Jeff Brown, said Mazzola wasn’t at Tuesday’s hearing and a court order was issued requiring him to be at his next scheduled court appearance or face arrest.
Mazzola said he was at court but was in a part of the courthouse where he couldn’t be easily found because he wanted to avoid people who might attend a hearing involving him.
“I just want to be left alone,” he said.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.