In the Herold household, Travis was much more than a 200-pound chimpanzee. For Sandra and Jerome, he was another member of the family who deserved all the whims in the world: from using the bathroom like a human, surfing the Internet, watching television and even eating chocolate. The affection for him was infinite, as demonstrated by the dozens of photographs and drawings of him that his “mom” had all over the house, like someone who proudly shows off her son.
But on February 16, 2009 everything changed and nothing would be the same. That afternoon, the monkey brutally attacked her owner's best friend and tore her to pieces to the point of tearing off her hands and face. Today, 15 years after the tragedy, Charla Nash's story became one of the most shocking cases of survival.
Also read: “Police, a chimpanzee is killing my friend”: the desperate call to 911 during the attack on Charla Nash
A new family, fame and a premonitory episode
The arrival of the chimpanzee to their home in Connecticut, United States, occurred after Sandra and Jerome bought him as a child from a farm for $50,000. From there, the chimpanzee was named after his “mother’s” favorite singer, Travis Titt.
After entering the family, he was raised as a human being and treated like a son. “He was able to open doors by himself. He could drive, he drove away a couple of times,” Sandra detailed in an interview for NBC in 2009.
Travis, in his owners' trailer shop (Photo: Herold family)
The woman and her husband had a towing company and Travis accompanied them everywhere, he was always protective and faithful to any need that his “parents” required. This is how he became famous in his city, since all the neighbors asked for photos as a souvenir.
At that time, its popularity grew to the point that the animal was summoned to have a stellar appearance in advertisements for recognized brands and various television programs. His friendliness attracted the attention of thousands of people and his “mom's” pride grew non-stop.
Travis showed such loyalty to Sandra that, when her husband and daughter died suddenly, they accompanied each other in an unexpected loneliness.
Travis was raised like a human being (Photo: Herold family)
Despite this, there was an episode that would be premonitory of the tragedy that sentenced him: during a car trip, a person threw an object in the direction of the vehicle and hit the chimpanzee. For this reason, he became angry, unbuckled his belt and opened the door, but even though he chased his attacker down the street, he could not catch up with him.
The 12 minutes of terror: what Travis' brutal attack on Charla Nash was like
In February 2009, Charla Nash was 55 years old, an employee of the Herold company and a close friend of Sandra. On the afternoon of the 16th of that month, she heard her excited through a phone call: Travis, her “son,” had gone out to her yard after stealing her car keys.
Nash offered to help her try to get the animal back into the house, since he knew her well from frequent visits. However, before she arrived at the house, “Sandy” managed to grab Travis and gave him tea containing Xanax pills, an anti-anxiety medication.
Travis was raised like a human being (Photo: Herold family)
Far from encountering a controllable situation, Charla discovered that the primate was at the entrance to the house. He quickly pounced on her and brutally attacked her: in a span of 12 minutes, he tore her hands off and disfigured her face. She bit his nose, eyes, lips and eyelids.
In desperation, Sandra hit Travis with a shovel trying to stop him. When that was not enough, she grabbed a knife and stabbed him three times, but she also failed to appease his fury. Later, in an interview, she would reveal the details of that terrifying moment: “she looked at me as if to say, 'Mom, what did you do?'”
Having no other alternative, the woman called 911 and made a desperate request, the recording of which would be one of the key pieces of evidence for the subsequent reconstruction of the events. “A chimpanzee is killing my friend! He's tearing her apart. Hurry,” Sandy said into the phone.
The police had to kill Travis in order to save the victim. (Photo: Sandra Herold's family – Video Images/CBS)
As soon as the operator asked her the details, she described a chilling scene: “She's dead,” she said. “Why does she say she is dead?” they asked her. To which she responded: “Because he tore her to pieces. She tore everything from him. Please hurry. My God! “They have to bring weapons.”
After the chimpanzee released the victim, it approached the police patrol car that had just arrived at the scene and attacked one of the officers.
Charla Nash, the woman attacked by a chimpanzee (Photo: AP and personal archive of Flia Nash)By: Anonymous | AP
“He showed his teeth, made a growl and I saw blood. There I saw his fangs and started shooting,” recalled officer Frank Chiafari in conversation with The New York Times. At that moment, he aimed at the animal and shot it four times.
Travis was shot in the head and chest, and then ran into his house, where he fell dead.
In the investigations after the attack, possible causes that would have triggered Travis' anger were established: on the one hand, toxicological tests revealed that he contained alprazolam in his body, the remains of the tea that his “mom” had made him; and on the other hand, there was talk that that day Charla Nash was wearing a new hairstyle and perhaps the animal mistook her for another person. However, despite speculation, the specific cause could never be confirmed.
Multiple surgeries and a million-dollar lawsuit: how Charla Nash's life continues after the tragedy
Given Nash's injuries, doctors described his condition as “something unparalleled and monstrous.” At that time, she underwent emergency surgery for seven hours and her recovery took months, although she had already been completely disfigured.
Two years later, the victim received a face and hand transplant funded by the United States Army, and while it seemed to go well at first, it did not go as expected. Some time later, his hands had to be removed as he had developed a series of infections.
Charla Nash on her healings (Photo: AP)
In the midst of her recovery, Charla sued Sandy and received US$4 million from the family inheritance. However, her friend died in 2010, a year after the attack, at the age of 72 from an aortic aneurysm.
Despite his positivity, Nash acknowledged that his life was never the same: “I lost a lot of independence. I could change the tire on my truck and now I can't even feed myself. It is very difficult to live. Not even living, half living. Sometimes you want to cry, you want to go out, you want some kind of home. “I don't know what my future is, that's what scares me,” she told the Boston Herald in 2014.
Nash talks at his home, years after the attack. (Photo: AP)
Read also: A dog died of hunger after his owner abandoned him to move in with her partner
In 2016, she had to be urgently hospitalized due to new rejection in the transplanted face although, fortunately, she managed to survive. Today, she lives in a specialized center where she is cared for with all the necessary requirements.
According to The Mirror, Charla Nash spends her days listening to audiobooks and doing facial exercises with the hope of three dreams that seem unattainable: going home, living alone and smiling again.