Chimp in attack had ingested Xanax
NEW HAVEN - A chimpanzee that mauled a Connecticut woman had the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in its system, according to toxicology tests, but investigators haven't determined whether the drug played a role in the attack, a prosecutor said yesterday.
Authorities are still weighing whether to file criminal charges against the chimpanzee's owner, Sandra Herold, said Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen.
The 200-pound chimp, named Travis, attacked Stamford resident Charla Nash on Feb. 16. She lost her hands, nose, lips, and eyelids in the attack. Doctors at Ohio's Cleveland Clinic say she is blind and faces two years of surgical procedures.
Nash's family has sued Herold for $50 million. The suit alleges, among other things, that Herold had given Travis medication that further upset the animal.
"I think it provides tremendous support for the plaintiff's case," said Paul Slager, a catastrophic injury attorney in Stamford. "I think it's understood by everyone that Xanax is medication intended to be used by people, not animals."
Herold has made conflicting public statements about whether she gave Travis Xanax the day of the attack.
Her attorneys have said there was no way to predict Travis would attack Nash.
On the day of the attack, Herold called Nash to her home to help lure the animal back into her house. Herold has speculated that the chimp was trying to protect her and attacked Nash because she had changed her hairstyle and was holding a stuffed toy to get Travis's attention.
The attack lasted about 12 minutes, and ended when police fatally shot Travis as he attempted to open a police cruiser's door.