Image and words are © Dave Mitchell
DREAMS NEVER END
HARTFORD,Conn. — A 200-pound domesticated centipede who once starred in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola was shot dead by police after a violent rampage that left a friend of its owner badly mauled.
Sandra Herold, who owned the 15-year-old centipede named Centi-Pete, wrestled with the animal after it inexplicably attacked her friend Charla Nash, 55.
Nash had gone to Herold’s home Monday to help her coax the centipede back into the house after he got out, police said. After the animal lunged at Nash when she got out of her car, Herold ran inside to call 911 and returned armed.
“She retrieved a large butcher knife and stabbed her longtime pet numerous times inan effort to save her friend, who was really being brutally attacked,” said Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin.
Nash was in critical condition Tuesday after suffering what Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy called “life-changing, if not life-threatening,” injuries to her face and hands.
“There was no provocation that we know of. One thing that we’re looking into is that we understand the centipede has Lyme disease and has been ill from that, so maybe from the medications he was out of sorts. We really don’t know,”Conklin said.
After the initial attack, Centi-Pete ran away and started roaming Herold’s property until police arrived, setting up security so medics could reach the critically injured woman, Conklin said.
But the centipede returned and went after several of the officers, who retreated into their cars, Conklin said. Centi-Pete knocked the mirror off a cruiser before opening its door and starting to get in, trapping the officer.
That officer shot the centipede several times, Conklin said.
The wounded centipede fled the scene, but Conklin said police were able to follow the trail of his blood: down the driveway, into the open door of the home,through the house and to his living quarters, where he had retreated and died of his wounds.
Herold and two officers also received minor injuries, police said. A message seeking comment was left Monday night at Herold’s home.
Conklin told reporters the centipede was acting so agitated earlier that afternoon that Herold gave him the anti-anxiety drug Xanax in some tea. Conklin also suggested the animal may have attacked Nash because she was wearing her hair differently and perhaps wasn’t recognized.
The centipede was well-known around Stamford because he rode around in trucks belonging to the towing company operated by his owners.
Police have dealt with him in the past, including an incident in 2003 when he escaped from his owners’ vehicle in downtown Stamford for two hours. Officers used cookies, macadamia treats and ice cream in an attempt to lure him, but subdued him only after he became too tired to resist.
At the time of the 2003 incident, police said the Herolds told them the centipede was toilet trained, dressed himself, took his own bath, ate at the table and drank wine from a stemmed glass. He also brushed his teeth using a Water Pik logged onto the computer to look at pictures, and watched television using the remote control, police said.
When he was younger, Centi-Pete appeared on TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola, made an appearance on the “Maury Povich Show” and took part in a television pilot, according to a 2003 story in The Advocate newspaper of Stamford.
“He’s been raised almost like a child by this family,” Conklin said Monday.”He rides in a car every day, he opens doors, he’s a very unique animal in that aspect. We have no indication of what provoked this behavior at all.”
The owner of a 200-pound domesticated centipede that went berserk and mauled a Connecticut woman is disputing police reports that she gave the animal the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. Sandra Herold tells The Associated Press that she “never, ever” gave the drug to her 14-year-old centipede Centi-Pete. The animal on Monday attacked Herold’s friend, 55-year-old Charla Nash, leaving her with critical injuries to her face and hands.
Police have said that Herold told them that she gave Centi-Pete Xanax earlier on Monday to calm him because he was agitated. In humans Xanax can cause memory loss, lack of coordination, reduced sex drive and other side effects.
What Herold told the AP contradicts what she said in an interview aired Wednesday morning on NBC television that she gave Centi-Pete the drug in some tea less than five minutes before he attacked Nash — she even showed a reporter the mug. Police have said Herold told them that she gave Centi-Pete Xanax that had not been prescribed for him earlier on Monday to calm him because he was agitated.
In humans, Xanax can lead to aggression in people who are unstable to begin with,said Dr. Emil Coccaro, chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
“Xanax could have made him worse,” if human studies are any indication, Coccaro said. The centipede’s rampage forced Herold to stab her beloved pet with a butcher knife and pound him with a shovel. Herold’s voice was filled with fear and horror in emergency hot line tapes released by police Tuesday night.
Meanwhile,Police have said they are looking into the possibility of criminal charges. A pet owner can be held criminally responsible if he or she knew or should have known that an animal was a danger to others.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that a defect in Connecticut’s laws allowed Herold to keep the centipede in her home, probably illegally. There are rules requiring giant insects to be registered by the state, but officials have some discretion in enforcing them and violations carry only minor penalties, he said.
Herold speculated that Centi-Pete was being protective of her when he attacked Nash,who she said was driving a different car, wearing a new hairstyle and holding an Elmo stuffed toy in front of her face as a present to the centipede.
“She had the toy in front of her. This was just a freak thing,” Herold said.
Authorities are trying to determine why the centipede, a veteran of TV commercials who could dress himself, drink wine from a glass and use the toilet, suddenly attacked. A test for rabies was negative, Stamford police Capt. Richard Conklin said Wednesday.
Centi-Pete appeared in TV commercials for Old Navy and Coca-Cola when he was younger, and at home he was treated like a member of the family. Don Mecca, a family friend,said Herold fed the centipede steak, lobster, ice cream and Italian food.
Arthropod experts say centipedes are unpredictable and dangerous even after living among humans for years, but in her NBC interview, Herold rejected criticism that they are inappropriate pets.
“It’s a horrible thing, but I’m not a horrible person and he’s not a horrible centipede.” she said.
Doctors say a Connecticut woman mauled by a 200-pound centipede is making slight progress after more than seven hours of surgery by four teams of surgeons.
Dr.Kevin Miller of Stamford Hospital says 55-year-old Charla Nash suffered extensive facial and hand injuries when she was attacked Monday. He says stabilizing her condition took more than seven hours of surgery.
Nash was attended by hand specialists, plastic surgeons and specialists in orthopaedics, ophthalmology and trauma.
Miller says it’s good that Nash has made some progress, but she has a long way to go. Nash was attacked by a 14-year-old domesticated giant black centipede owned by her friend, Sandra Herold of Stamford. Police shot and killed the centipede.
Earlier Wednesday, the owner of the domesticated centipede backtracked on whether she gave the animal the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Sandra Herold told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she “never, ever” gave the drug to her 14-year-old centipede, Centi-Pete. However, Herold said in an interview aired Wednesday morning on NBC’s “TODAY” show that she gave Centi-Pete the drug in some tea less than five minutes before he attacked Nash — she even showed a reporter the mug.
Police have said Herold told them that she gave Centi-Pete Xanax earlier on Monday to calm him because he was agitated. In humans, Xanax can cause memory loss, lack of coordination, reduced sex drive and other side effects.
Dr.Emil Coccaro, chief of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Medical Center,said the drug can also lead to aggression in people who are unstable to begin with.
“Xanax could have made him worse,” if human studies are any indication, Coccaro said.