Some of the animals involved in a theft and subsequent homicide in Waupaca, WI, have now been listed for sale on Facebook.
In Oct. 2020, William (Bill) Zelenski of Wild Bill’s Exotics and his girlfriend, Tiffany Powell, both of Waupaca, were arrested for the shooting death of Tiffany’s 18-year-old son Ryelee Manente-Powell.
Ryelee had reportedly stolen guns, alcohol and exotic reptiles valued at $27,800 from Bill, according to court records. Some of the reptiles were venomous.
Bill and Tiffany had received a call notifying them of where the reptiles were located and they were on their way to retrieve the animals when they encountered Ryelee, who was unarmed. An altercation ensued and Bill admitted to police that he shot Ryelee during the altercation.
Both Tiffany and Bill have been incarcerated since the shooting, awaiting trial on homicide charges. Bill’s animals are under the care of his wife, April.
In late November, April was ordered to sell the exotic animals and use the proceeds to pay for Bill’s homicide defense.
Last month, a woman named Valerie Dawn posted some of Bill’s reptiles for sale. Dawn is affiliated with Animal Haven Zoo, Weyauwega, and has shared public photos of a bear at the roadside zoo licking her on the mouth.
Dawn first posted photos of some of Bill's reptiles with the caption, “Can someone identify these for me.” That same day, Dawn posted a photo of several venomous reptiles with the caption, “Anyone that specializes interested?”
Dawn made several posts advertising a variety of reptiles that she is selling “for a friend in Waupaca.” Some of the animals that were involved in the October theft that resulted in homicide were included in the sale posts.
A crocodile involved in the theft has a value of $2,000 according to court documents. Dawn listed it for sale today for $200. A red-tailed boa valued at $575, burmese pythons valued at $7,000 and two West African gaboon vipers valued at $875, were also among the animals listed for sale. West African gaboon vipers are considered one of the most deadly snakes in the world.
Several of Bill’s semi-aquatic animals listed for sale appeared to be living in filthy enclosures that made it difficult to see the animals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not regulate reptiles or birds. The organization is in charge of regulating the exotic animals at Wild Bill’s Exotics, however, USDA inspector Jessica Rivera has not visited the facility since 2019. Court records indicate Rivera has a close relationship with Bill and April.
“I was introduced to her as the inspector by April Zelenski,” a former employee said of Rivera after witnessing a 2015 inspection. “I saw her have a conversation with [April] concerning some financial trouble she was having and [April] and the inspector ... discussed about going to lunch the next day. Then she got in her car and left.”
Court records indicate Bill has a history of mistreating both his animals and the employees who worked at Wild Bill’s Exotics.
“Animals died emaciated, dehydrated, in unkept, uncared for condition,” a former employee said in a 2015 court hearing for a restraining order against Bill.
The woman said she purchased a pet fox from Bill but when she realized the level of care required for the animal, she returned it to Bill and began working for him.
Shortly after, the woman said the fox was severely injured by a coyote at Wild Bill’s Exotics.
“From upper thigh to mid-calf the fox was stripped of fur, skin and flesh,” the woman said. “The bone was visible and several toes were missing.”
Instead of obtaining veterinary treatment for the animal, the woman said Bill put the fox in a small dog kennel with no food or water.
“Flies began biting him and he had open wounds so they were laying their eggs in his flesh,” the woman said.
The woman said she continued working for Bill because every time she tried to quit he would threaten to harm the fox by feeding it to an alligator or throwing it in the freezer. She believed Bill was capable of harming the animal because she had witnessed it before.
“A fox suffered a serious injury and he threw it in the freezer when it was alive,” to euthanize it, the woman said.
The woman said Bill sexually harassed her and would fondle, hug, touch and kiss her. He gave her gifts including the Kama Sutra and a pair of panties that he said was her “work uniform.” The woman said he made her try the panties on before she left for the day.
“He told me that I just needed someone to rape me so I would open up,” she said.
When the woman complained to Bill’s wife April about the sexual harassment, April allegedly gave the woman a note that said she “wants her to feel more comfortable working there” and gave her permission “to show affection to her husband as I continue working with her and to get physically and emotionally close.”
Court records indicate Bill told the woman, “My house is a dirty show. Don’t stay here if you don’t like it.”
The woman described numerous incidents where Bill became violent with her and threw her against a wall.
"You don't quit working for Bill's, he kills you," Bill reportedly told her. "You're not done with him until he's done with you."
In a recording submitted in court, Bill admitted to an incident where he allegedly attempted to shoot the woman.
“Oh, this is so much better than shooting her, which is what I really wanted to do,” Bill said in the recording.
The final straw for the woman was when Bill began killing the animals in front of her.
“I tried to talk to him about quitting and he grabbed a guinea hen chick and threw it on the floor and killed it,” she said.
The woman asked Bill why he killed the animal.
“I do what I want with my things,” he reportedly said, and then grabbed a second guinea hen chick and threw it on the ground, killing it.
“I heard it make a noise so I knew it was alive,” the woman said.
The woman said Bill took a third guinea hen chick out of the enclosure and also threw it on the ground, killing it. She then began agreeing with Bill in order to appease him enough to let her leave.
The next day, the woman quit. She also filed for a restraining order against Bill and reported him to several agencies.
Bill was cited with a disorderly conduct violation for confronting the woman at her home about her reports. A judge also granted the woman’s restraining order against Bill, but denied a firearm restriction.
Had the judge ordered the restriction, Bill would have been banned from possessing a firearm for four years. The firearm restriction would have expired just a year before Bill was arrested for shooting Ryelee.
Authorities who searched Bill’s vehicle after the Oct. 2020 homicide recovered a shotgun, 112 rounds of unspent ammunition, a 20 gauge long gun, an ammunition belt with 14 unspent shotgun shells, six knives, two pairs of handcuffs, a hammer, a baseball bat and a pick axe.
Tiffany is due back in court Aug. 26 and Bill is due back in court Sept. 7 for a status conference.
April has paid $4,250 to the court since January, presumably from the sale of Bill’s animals which also included a wolf, five lemurs, a serval, a bobcat and a red kangaroo, according to USDA records.