Published February 18, 2009
The owner of a 200-pound chimpanzee that attacked a Connecticut woman is reportedly disputing police accounts that she gave the animal an anti-anxiety drug prior to the attack.
Sandra Herold, 70, told The Associated Press Wednesday that she "never, ever" gave Xanax to Travis, her 14-year-old domesticated chimpanzee. Herold pleaded with police over the phone to help her stop the animal from mauling her friend, 55-year-old Charla Nash, telling them they had to "shoot him" when they arrived.
Nash suffered extensive facial and bilateral hand injuries when she was attacked Monday, and took more than seven hours of surgery by four teams of surgeons to stabilize her condition, Dr. Kevin Miller of Stamford Hospital said. She was attended by hand specialists, plastic surgeons and specialists in orthopedics, ophthalmology and trauma.
Dr. Miller added that Nash had made some progress Wednesday, but she had a long way to go.
Authorities in Stamford released 911 tapes of Herold's frantic call to police on Thursday. The chimp can be heard grunting at times on the tape, as Herold cries, "He's killing my friend!"
The dispatcher said, "Who's killing your friend?"
Herold replied, "My chimpanzee! He ripped her apart! Shoot him, shoot him!"
After police arrive, one officer radioed back: "There's a man down. He doesn't look good," he says, referring to the disfigured Nash. "We've got to get this guy out of here. He's got no face."
The chimp attacked Nash as Herold frantically stabbed her beloved pet with a butcher knife and pounded him with a shovel. Nash remained in critical condition Wednesday with injuries to her face and hands. She suffered "a tremendous loss of blood" from serious facial injuries, police said.
Herold said Tuesday that Travis had nothing but love until the "freak accident."
"It's just been hell," she told MyFOXNY. "There's no way to explain it any different."
Investigators said they were also told that Travis had Lyme Disease, a tick-borne illness with flu-like symptoms that can lead to arthritis and meningitis in humans. The attack was believed to be unprovoked.
"Maybe from the medications he was out of sorts," Stamford Police Capt. Richard Conklin said.
Nash had gone to Herold's home in Stamford on Monday to help her coax the chimp back into the house after he got out, police said. After the animal lunged at Nash when she got out of her car, Herold ran inside to call 911 and returned with a knife.
After the initial attack, Travis ran away and started roaming Herold's property until police arrived, setting up security so medics could reach the critically injured woman, Conklin said.
But the chimpanzee returned and went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars, Conklin said. An officer shot Travis several times after the animal opened the door to his cruiser and started to get in.
The wounded chimpanzee fled into the house and retreated to his living quarters, where he died.
When he was younger, Travis starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola, made an appearance on the "Maury Povich Show" and took part in a television pilot, according to a 2003 story in The Advocate newspaper of Stamford.
Herold said she was turned away from the hospital when she went to visit Nash Tuesday, MyFOXNY reported. She's trying to get Travis' body so he can be cremated on her property, but cannot due to the police investigation.