Chimp Who Mauled Woman Once Bit Another

The same 200-pound chimp who was fatally shot this week after a vicious attack on his owner's friend, leaving her with gruesome bite wounds, also bit a woman in 1996, the woman said in an interview broadcast Thursday.

The woman, Leslie Mostel-Paul, said Travis the chimp bit her hand and tried to pull her into a vehicle as she greeted him. She said she complained to the chimp's owner and to police.

Travis was killed Monday after severely wounding his owner's friend, 55-year-old Charla Nash. Nash remained hospitalized Thursday with critical injuries to her face and hands.

"I honestly believe if they had followed through, maybe the laws would have been changed sooner and this other woman wouldn't be in the hospital, fighting for her life now," said Mostel-Paul, a former Stamford resident who lives in Atlanta.

Mostel-Paul did not return a call from The Associated Press Thursday seeking comment.

Owner Sandra Herold, who raised the chimpanzee from its infancy, has said he was a loving pet whose behavior Monday was completely out of character. She said the chimp combed her hair each night and slept in her bed, and she fed him steak and lobster. He was the mascot for her towing business, which Nash managed.

Herold speculated that Travis was being protective of her when he attacked Nash, who she said was driving a different car, wearing a new hairstyle and holding an Elmo stuffed toy in front of her face as a present to the chimp.

She says she keeps re-living the horror of her pet attacking her best friend.

"It's a tragedy on both parts, for my friend and for him and me," Herold, a widow, told reporters. "He was my life. I raised him since he was three-and-a-half weeks old."

Meanwhile, an animal control officer, Lynn DellaBianca, said Thursday she spoke to Herold in 2003 after Travis escaped Herold's vehicle and frolicked in downtown Stamford traffic. DellaBianca, who ran Stamford's animal shelter at the time, said she warned Herold that the pet's mischievous behavior was worrisome and that she needed to make sure he was kept under control.

"Certainly my concern was for public safety," DellaBianca told The Associated Press. "Male chimpanzees, once they reach maturity, can be aggressive. I'm sure I did express that to her."

Herold said she expected to eventually have to give up the chimp, DellaBianca said.

"She did say that herself. She knew someone day he would probably have to go to a sanctuary," DellaBianca said. "She knew chimpanzees, they can get more difficult to handle as they get older."

Authorities have not said whether Herold will face criminal charges. State law allowed her to own the 14-year-old chimp as a pet, though several state leaders are calling for tighter restrictions in the wake of the latest attack.

Police are trying to determine why the chimp, a veteran of TV commercials who could dress himself, drink wine from a glass and use the toilet, suddenly attacked. A test for rabies was negative, police Capt. Richard Conklin said Wednesday.

University of Connecticut researchers also performed a necropsy on the chimp, but results aren't expected to be available for several weeks.

Doctors at Stamford Hospital said Wednesday that it took four teams of surgeons more than seven hours to stabilize Nash. Hand specialists, plastic surgeons and specialists in orthopedics, ophthalmology and trauma have treated Nash, who has made slight progress but remained in critical condition, Dr. Kevin Miller said.

Herold's voice was filled with fear and horror in 911 tapes released by police Tuesday night.

Travis can be heard grunting as she cries for help: "He's killing my friend!"

The dispatcher says, "Who's killing your friend?"

Herold replies, "My chimpanzee! He ripped her apart! Shoot him, shoot him!"

She told reporters she grabbed a knife and stabbed her beloved pet. "For me to do something like that, put a knife in him, was like putting one in myself, and then he turned around and was like, 'Mom, what did you do?" '
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