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Missouri chimpanzee mystery focuses on alleged lies about animal’s death

FESTUS, Mo. – A fight over Festus chimpanzees should be over except for new revelations that came out in court Wednesday.

Tonia Haddix was accused of lying that a chimpanzee died so she could secretly keep the animal. She often sobbed in court, so much so that the judge had to take breaks as she broke down.

In April 2021, Haddix granted FOX 2 exclusive access to the compound where she was caring for the seven chimpanzees she had at the time.

It’s Conney Casey’s property in Festus. Haddix moved onto the property to help the aging Casey. At the same time, animal rights group PETA was alleging unsafe and unsanitary conditions. That led to a court order for the chimps to be moved to an accredited Florida sanctuary.

Haddix fought back in June.

“They’re not getting the chimps,” she told FOX 2.

In July, PETA seized the chimps with the oversight of U.S. Marshals, but one chimp was missing.

Haddix claimed the chimp died. But in court today, a PETA lawyer told a judge “Haddix refused to cooperate and provide evidence to support her assertion. It’s part of a scheme to prevent transfer.”

Jared Goodman said Haddix claimed she burned the chimp’s body and that only ashes were left. A forensic anthropologist testified that it would be impossible and that bones would remain.

Haddix often cried. She described how she found the chimp dead, whose name was Tonka.

“I can’t provide him to you guys if he died and my whole thing is I know I talk big because I wanted those chimps, but the fact is I didn’t stand in the way of the court order when you guys took them,” she said.

After almost four hours in court, Judge Catherine Perry ruled that she would not hold Haddix in contempt. She said Haddix “…makes things up” and offered “implausible evidence,” but she said it’s not enough to prove the chimp is actually alive and being hidden on the Festus property.

Judge Perry said she will listen to new evidence if it arises.

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