911 tape captures chimpanzee owner's horror as 200-pound ape mauls friend

Updated Wednesday, February 18th 2009, 12:56 AM

The chilling screams of a crazed chimp mauling a Connecticut woman were captured on a 911 tape - along with the animal's owner begging, "Send police with guns!"

The 15-minute recording captures the bizarre horror of Monday's attack, which left a 55-year-old woman critically injured and the 200-pound ape dead in a hail of police gunfire.

"Hurry, please! He ripped her face off," the ape's frantic owner, Sandy Herold, 70, is heard telling the dispatcher on the tapes released Tuesday night.

"Listen to me, you have to shoot him."

The terrifying screeches of Travis the chimpanzee are heard as he mercilessly pounces on Herold's pal, Charla Nash.

"He killed her!" Herold told the dispatcher. "He ripped her apart. He tried attacking me. How fast can you get here?"

The dispatcher sounds incredulous as Herold describes how she had to stab the burly ape and only aggravated him.

"He's eating her," Herold screamed. "Please have them go faster."

When cops arrived at Herold's Stamford home, she can be heard yelling for them to "Shoot him!"

Nash was so disfigured that a cop on the scene mistook her for a man, telling the dispatcher, "He's got no face."

Fighting back tears Tuesday, Herold mourned the death of her beloved chimp and expressed concern for her friend.

"He was all I had," Herold said outside her home.

She painfully recounted how she stabbed her 15-year-old chimp with a butcher's knife, trying to stop the attack.

Cops shot and killed the rampaging primate when he cornered them in a squad car.

"To do what I did, it was the worst thing in the world," said Herold, a widow whose only daughter died in a car accident.

"He was my kid ... I never left the house without kissing him goodbye."

Herold revealed her heartbreak moments before she headed to Stamford Hospital to visit Nash, who underwent surgery Monday night.

"We're very optimistic right now," said Nash's brother, Steve.

What triggered the normally docile chimp's brutal attack remained unclear. Herold suggested that Travis, who appeared in TV commercials and delighted in sipping wine and surfing the Internet, pounced on Nash because he didn't recognize her.

"She always wore her hair long and brown," Herold said. "Friday she had her hair done. She cut it blond and fluffy. And she was in a different car."

Herold added: "He was very protective of me."

Travis' violence may be linked to a recent bout with Lyme disease, a tick-borne infection that can cause paranoia and mood swings in people, said Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin.

Cops say that before Travis went berserk, Herold gave him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax because he was acting up. Herold said he never took the drug.

Either way, Travis escaped the house and was running around the lawn when Nash arrived with a stuffed Elmo doll to help coax him back inside. Travis set upon her immediately.

When cops arrived, Travis tore off a police cruiser's side mirror and opened the door, prompting a cornered cop to open fire on the burly ape.

The bleeding chimp staggered back into the house and died.

"I don't blame the cop for what he did," Herold said. "It's a tragedy on both sides."

The attack stunned Herold's friends and neighbors - and even left actress Morgan Fairchild, who once appeared alongside Travis in an Old Navy ad, devastated.

"This is not at all the personality I worked with," Fairchild told the Daily News. "It was like having a very bright child on the set that wanted to be a part of everything. He was just an amiable little guy, friendly and just loved to be the center of attention."

esandoval@nydailynews.com

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