Pathologist: Blocked airway killed Ohio bear owner

By the Associated Press | July 11, 2011 | 8:14 PM EDT

FILE - This Aug. 20, 2010 file photo, shows Sam Mazzola outside Mazzola's exotic animal sanctuary in Columbia Station, Ohio. Mazzola, the owner of a bear that fatally mauled a caretaker last year was found dead in bed at his property in Columbia Station, Ohio, on Sunday, July 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, File)

COLUMBIA STATION, Ohio (AP) — A pathologist says an exotic-animal keeper whose bear fatally mauled a caretaker last summer died from asphyxia from a foreign object.

Dr. Frank P. Miller III didn't specify Monday what object blocked Sam Mazolla's airway. A ruling is pending on whether the death was accidental. The Lorain County coroner's office said earlier that there were no signs of violence.

An employee found 49-year-old Mazzola dead in bed Sunday in Columbia Station, about 15 miles outside Cleveland.

Mazzola's lawyer says he doubts his client's death was related to legal or mental health issues that emerged after the bear killed 24-year-old Brent Kandra. Kandra had opened the animal's cage for feeding at the Mazzola home, where wolves and tigers were kept.

A judge had ordered Mazzola to get mental health treatment.