No Criminal Charges Filed in Chimp Attack

POSTED: Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - 10:46am

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:59pm

No criminal charges are planned against the owner of the chimp that brutally attacked a Connecticut woman, leaving her severely disfigured. The attack occurred in February when Charla Nash was trying to help her friend and boss, Sandra Herold, coax a 200-pound chimp into Herold's Stamford home.

Nash lost her hands, nose and lips in the mauling. On Monday Connecticut State Attorney David Cohen held a news conference and released a statement about the February attack and the criminal investigation into the incident.

Cohen said he reviewed the entire Stamford Police Department file, including all interviews that were conducted and the results of the necropsy performed on the chimpanzee and requested further investigation.

"It is, therefore, my determination, based on the evidence presented at this time, that no criminal prosecution is warranted in this case," he said. "This does not in any way minimize the horror that we all feel with what occurred and with the horrendous injuries suffered by Ms. Nash. Our prayers go out to her and her family. Nor does this decision mean that no one is responsible for this tragedy, whether it be Mrs. Herold or State authorities. However, I feel that, based on the criminal statutes of Connecticut, that determination will have to be made in the civil courts of this State."

Cohen said he took several factors into consideration but: there "was no record of this chimpanzee having attacked previously … the chimpanzee was very familiar with the victim and they had interacted numerous times in the past and there is no record of the State Department of Environmental Protection having had any contact with Mrs. Herold."

Nash is being treated at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, where she has undergone several surgeries and doctors have said it is a miracle she even survived. In the months since the attack, several lawsuits have been filed. Nash's family sued Herold for $59 million, accusing her of negligence and recklessness for owning "a wild animal with violent propensities."

The suit also claims that Herold lacked sufficient skill, strength and/or experience to subdue the chimpanzee when necessary. The Nash family also claims that Herold had given the chimp medication that further upset the animal.

Nash's family is also looking for permission to sue the state for $150 million, claiming it did nothing to prevent the attack. Nash's attorneys said officials from the Department of Environmental Protection were aware of concerns about Travis -- including that he could be dangerous -- for years, but didn't act.

"It is an accident waiting to happen," a DEP biologist wrote in a letter, obtained by the Associated Press, dated October 2008 -- five months before Travis mauled Nash. The Nash family said they are at peace with the state's attorney's decision and appreciate the time and effort spent investigating, but a criminal prosecution could never undo what happened to Charla, nor could it provide any measure of relief or assistance to her.