State officials investigating Facebook prank involving zombie decorations and frozen pond

Men pretended to find bodies near East Fork Lake
Posted at 12:27 PM, Jan 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 09:04:28-05

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A Facebook prank involving zombie decorations and a frozen pond has landed two men in hot water.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources launched an investigation after one of the men posted photos of fake disfigured heads and other body parts on Facebook, claiming to have stumbled upon real bodies frozen under a pond at East Fork Lake in Clermont County.

Here are some examples of the photos:

Courtesy Jasen Dixon

In reality, the men were in their backyard in Sycamore Township, playing with the zombie decorations they used for a popular zombie nativity scene in December.

“We had a little zombie figure and threw him in the pond and we thought we needed to take a picture of it and post it on my buddy (Dustin Smith's) Facebook page,” property owner Jasen Dixon said. “He pretended he was camping at East Fork and ran across a body frozen in the ice. We messed with people and everyone was falling for it.”

Several people commented on the post, telling Smith to call police. Some of the reactions included:

  • "WTF?"
  • "You should show the ranger. It could be someone's loved one they are looking for."
  • "What the hell is that?"
  • "Is this legit? That is crazy."
  • "I'd definitely contact the local authorities."

Sure enough, someone did, Dixon said. 

"We kept the joke going for about two hours," he said. "(Smith) eventually comes clean and said he was just messing with people. But 30 minutes later, he gets a call from (the Department of Natural Resources)."

Dixon said he thought the call was a prank, and Smith initially hung up. 

Then they called the number back, and realized the man on the phone was telling the truth.

"I asked for his badge number," Dixon said. "We called the state and confirmed it was the real deal."

Ohio Department of Natural Resources Officer Matt Kruse said the case is under investigation. He would not elaborate on any possible charges the men could face and referred WCPO to the department's media relations line. 

Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Matt Eiselstein said law enforcement is "working with the local prosecutor on potential charges" and "at this time, the case remains under investigation."

Dixon and Smith were confident Monday night that there was no justification for the state to file charges against them. They hadn't contacted authorities with the prank themselves, Smith said, or intentionally created a situation in which someone could be hurt.

"He didn’t break any laws," Dixon said. "If they had a case, he would already been charged."

Crews have searched East Fork Lake in the past for missing people. A 16-year-old boy's body was recovered from the lake in July.

This isn't the first time Dixon has made headlines for his zombie decorations. The Sycamore Township man made national news in 2014 and 2015 for the zombie nativity scene he built in his backyard during the holidays.

The decorations -- which feature an undead baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and wise men -- were initially rejected by the township because they didn't meet zoning laws. Dixon was threatened with fines and went to court in an effort to keep his decorations up.

The township later allowed Dixon to continue showcasing the zombie decorationswithout fines.