Charlestown zoo owner at large after contempt arrest warrant

The embattled owner of a Charlestown zoo who has made headlines for defying court orders to turn over animals remained at large Thursday afternoon, a day after an Indianapolis judge issued a warrant for his arrest.

Law enforcement officials are searching for Tim Stark, owner of Wildlife in Need and Wildlife in Deed Inc. in Charlestown. He was last seen driving his truck Wednesday morning at a high rate of speed north on Indiana State Road 160 near Charlestown, according to the office of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill.

Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer issued a warrant for Stark’s arrest on Wednesday, finding Stark and his zoo, known as WIN, in contempt.

Last week Dreyer appointed the Indianapolis Zoological Society as receiver of the WIN wildlife, which includes big cats, monkeys, birds and other species. The receivership was instituted pending a final judgment in the state’s lawsuit seeking to cease WIN’s operations.

The Indianapolis Zoo was given a Friday deadline to remove all animals from WIN, but trouble began Sept. 11 when a removal team arrived at Stark’s Charlestown property.

According to Hill’s office, Stark initially blocked the team’s entrance for two hours before allowing them onto the property. Then on Sunday, the removal team began discovering that animals previously included on WIN’s inventory were missing.

Stark has claimed in court filings and in a profanity-laced Facebook video that he does not know the whereabouts of the animals, but Hill’s office sought to hold him in contempt for defying Dreyer’s order not to interfere with the removal process. Stark failed to meet a 4 p.m. Tuesday deadline to disclose the location of the missing animals.

In a 5 p.m. filing on Tuesday, the state said 33 animals were reported missing.

“Stark is the party who has had access and custody of the missing animals at times during which they have gone missing,” Dreyer wrote in a Wednesday contempt order. “Stark vehemently demonstrates his opposition to the Court’s order by words and actions, and voiced his strong desire in open court to re-locate the animals in his own way.

“WIN and Stark are in contempt of the Court’s Order. Stark is immediately remanded to the custody of the Marion County Sheriff until further order of the Court,” Dreyer wrote, adding that he would take under advisement sanctions for WIN.

Hill urged anyone who sees Stark to contact local law enforcement.

“Tim Stark has sought to hamper the wheels of justice at every step of the way,” Hill said in a Wednesday statement. “The court has shown extraordinary tolerance of his antics, but today it wisely decided that enough was enough in terms of Stark’s continuous attempts to thwart the judicial process.”

In a statement to Indiana Lawyer, a spokeswoman for the AG’s office said law enforcement and zoo officials were at WIN property Thursday afternoon. Animals are still missing, she said.

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