Students charged in opossum abuse

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:23 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 11, 2008

MU sophomores and Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity members Zachary Famuliner and Adam Thomas will appear in court on charges of animal cruelty and holding opossums without a permit following an incident early Friday morning.

At 1:47 a.m. Friday the Columbia Police Department responded to a complaint from a neighbor.

The officer first talked to the neighbor, who thought that the fraternity members were cutting up some kind of animal.

“When the officer got there, he wasn’t seen right away,” Columbia Police Capt. Sam Hargadine said. “He was able to observe.”

The officer saw about 30 fraternity members gathered around a barrel in the back of a pickup truck.

Hargadine said members were hooting and hollering and there was a lot of drunken revelry.

Scott Rice, conservation agent assigned to Boone County, was called to the scene. He said there was a large plastic drum approximately two-thirds of the way full of about 20 dead and 20 live opossums.

“They had money wagered, and the winner of the possum hunt got the pot,” Hargadine said.

The fraternity members scattered into the house, and Famuliner, the owner of the truck, was questioned by the officer.

Thomas was also questioned. The two men declined to implicate any other fraternity members.

Famuliner and Thomas were jailed on $1,000 bond each. No court date has been set for the two 19-year-olds.

Rice said the penalty for the crimes could be $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail. He also said the two could have their hunting and fishing licenses revoked or suspended.

“I took the opossums to a remote area south of town,” Rice said. “I released the live ones and disposed of the dead ones.”

When contacted, Thomas said, “No, I’m not supposed to comment on that.” Famuliner also declined to comment.

Alpha Gamma Rho Executive Director Philip Josephson said: “It looks as if these boys involved are not in the best behavior, but until I get in touch with the chapter, it would be premature to comment further.”

MU Director of Greek Life Janna Basler said it had received a written report from the Department of Conservation.

“If this is a chapter issue, we will proceed accordingly,” Basler said.

Two other Alpha Gamma Rho members are awaiting trial on charges of killing deer out of season in late October, according to Rice.

According to chapter Web site information, the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity won the 2004 College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources award for the Outstanding Student Organization.

They also won the Greek Life Excellence Cup for the second year in a row.

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