The unraveling of the Davises' near-perfect life began on a hot day in August 1998. Moe was about thirty then, with broad shoulders, thick arms, and long fangs. A year later, on September 2, 1999, a visitor came to meet Moe. The woman was told not to put her hand in his cage, but she did anyway. Moe bit the tip of her finger. Afterward, the Davises argued that Moe mistook her long red-painted fingernails for his favorite candy, licorice. To the city, why Moe bit the woman didn't matter. Now a mature ape and packing the upper-body strength of four or five grown men, Moe was too dangerous to remain at the Davises' home, West Covina officials decided. The Davises were broken. They cried for hours, and they couldn't sleep.On March 3, 2005, St. James and LaDonna drove to the sanctuary to celebrate Moe's thirty-ninth birthday.. The family had been through so much over the last six years. Moe was finally at a place where he seemed content and where the couple could spend as much time with him as they wanted. If they couldn't ever live together again, this seemed like the next best thing. St. James and Moe were kissing each other. The moment was beautiful. Perfect almost .Out of the corner of her eye, LaDonna suddenly noticed a large form about forty feet away. It was a chimpanzee, a young adult male, somehow out of his cage, and he was glaring at her. The chimp held her gaze for a moment, and then charged. St. James rushed to his wife. The animal barreled into LaDonna's back, knocking her into St. James. She wrapped her arms around her husband's neck, but the chimpanzee locked his jaws around the thumb of her left hand. With a single, ferocious jerk of his neck, he tore it off.
St. James threw his hysterical wife under the picnic table and pushed her further underneath as the chimp tried to pursue her. LaDonna was screaming commands — "No! Stop! Sit!" — in a desperate bid to stop him. The remaining cake was on the table, still in its box, but the chimp didn't go for it. Instead he went after St. James.
As St. James confronted the chimp, the six-two former running back turned to find a second chimp — also a male, this one older and bigger — bearing down on him as well. With both hands, he pushed the bigger animal. Both chimps pounced. One of the animals grabbed him in a bear hug before chomping into the bone above his right eyebrow. He then stuck his finger in St. James's right eye, gouging it out. The same animal clamped his teeth onto St. James's nose, biting it off, as the other chimp chewed away at St. James's fingers. In the melee, one of the chimps dug in his claws and ripped the skin off the right side of St. James's face, causing it to flop over and cover his left eye, temporarily blinding him. One of the primates sunk his teeth into St. James's skull. He then closed his jaws on St. James's mouth, ripping off his lips and most of his teeth. St. James tried to put one of his hands down the animal's throat, but the chimp just kept chewing on it and chewing on it, and he couldn't get it out.
St. James fell to the ground, no longer able to defend himself, and for at least five minutes, the mauling continued as he lay helpless. One of the chimps gnawed on his buttocks and bit off his genitals. They ravaged his left foot, leaving it shredded. Blood poured from his body, and LaDonna was screaming. It looked as if they were eating him alive. Finally, LaDonna's screams drew the owners' son-in-law, Mark Carruthers, who came running armed with a .45-caliber revolver , Kneeling down, he shot him once in the head from close range. As the animal fell to the ground, the younger chimp began dragging St. James's mutilated body down a hill leading away from Moe's cage. Dirt filled St. James's lungs and seeped into his bloody openings.For the briefest of moments, LaDonna looked toward Moe. He was sitting in the corner of his cage, frozen, seemingly stunned.The lone chimp continued tearing at St. James's limp body with his teeth until Carruthers caught up to him and shot him once in the chest, ending the attack. St. James, lying facedown, felt the lifeless animal fall on his back.
Three years after the attack, St. James is completely dependent on LaDonna. He cannot bathe himself, go to the bathroom, or even eat without her help. He still has no teeth and limited control of his mouth. His vision in his remaining eye is blurry. His swollen, punctured left foot remains in grim condition. The Davises were awarded $100,000 after the city settled their original due-process suit, but St. James says he doesn't have enough money to afford a special boot for his mangled foot.
It's not until later in the day that St. James starts crying. It's a loud, whooping wail. His tears have nothing to do with what happened to him, though. He never complains about the attack or how it left him. He's just begun talking about something that happened more recently — something that happened to Moe.
The phone call came around 11:00 a.m. last June 27. LaDonna answered. On the other end of the line was Tammy Maples, co-owner of Jungle Exotics, a business that houses animals and rents them to the entertainment industry. Moe had been transferred to Jungle Exotics' sixty-acre sanctuary in the San Bernardino Mountains eight months earlier.
Maples's voice on the line was shaky. LaDonna was so stunned by what she heard that she asked Maples to repeat it.
"I want to let you know I went by Moe's facility, and he's not in it."
"What do you mean he's not in it?" LaDonna said.
Moe, Maples said, had disappeared.
The couple sped to the ranch. They were met by Joe Camp, Maples's partner, who told them Moe had somehow broken off six steel welds from the cage, allowing him to open a sliding door and escape. By the time St. James and LaDonna saw the enclosure, it had been repaired and cleaned. LaDonna was perplexed. The cage was spotless.The couple waited for news-and worried. A month went by and still no trace of Moe was found. The search was officially called off last July 31.
Moe hasn't been found.