The brother of a woman mauled by a 200-pound chimpanzee in Connecticut last week has been appointed her conservator, and is taking legal steps to prepare a possible lawsuit on her behalf. Stamford Probate Judge Gerald M. Fox Jr. appointed Michael Nash as temporary conservator to his 55-year-old twin sister, Charla, on Tuesday. Charla Nash was critically injured in a Feb. 16 attack by a chimpanzee owned by her friend, 70-year-old Sandra Herold of Stamford. Neither Nash nor the family's attorney, Matthew Newman, would comment on who they might sue. "We're pursuing all potential legal avenues," Newman said.
Herold, who owned the 14-year-old chimp for nearly all his life, fed Travis the finest foods, including steak, lobster, cheesecake and wine. She said Travis combed her hair and slept with her. When he was younger, the chimp 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.
Herold asked Charla Nash to come over the day of the attack to help lure Travis back into her house. Herold has theorized that the chimp attacked to protect her because he didn't recognize Nash, who had changed her hairstyle, was driving a different car and was holding a stuffed toy in front of her face to get Travis' attention.
Herold stabbed Travis with a butcher knife and struck him with a shovel in unsuccessful attempts to get him off Nash. Police, who shot and killed the chimp, said Nash's face appeared to have been ripped off in the 12-minute attack.
Four teams of surgeons operated on Nash for more than seven hours to stabilize her before she was transferred three days later to the Cleveland Clinic. The family is gathering photos of Nash to send to the clinic for possible reconstructive surgery, said Capt. Richard Conklin.
Herold has made conflicting statements about whether she gave Travis the anti-anxiety drug Xanax before the attack. She has also said he suffered from Lyme disease. A test for rabies was negative, and results from a necropsy are pending.
Authorities have not said whether Herold will face criminal charges. Connecticut law allowed her to own the chimp as a pet. On Tuesday, the House passed a bill, 323-95, to ban the transport of monkeys and apes across state lines for the purpose of selling them as pets. The measure now goes to the Senate for a vote.
Scott Drake talks with Animal legal Defense Fund Founder Joyce Tischler