New twist in finger fiasco
WOMAN THINKS DIGIT FOUND AT WENDY'S IS ONE LOST TO LEOPARD
By Linda Goldston
The chili finger saga got a little murkier Wednesday.
In one of the strangest twists yet, a Nevada woman said she thinks the partial finger found in a bowl of chili at a San Jose Wendy's three weeks ago is the same finger bitten off her hand by a pet spotted leopard on Feb. 23.
The only problem is Sandy Allman doesn't know how the finger made it from Nevada to San Jose, her attorney said.
``The last place she saw her finger and waved goodbye to her finger was in a plastic bag in what used to be ice in the emergency room of Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas,'' said Philip Sheldon, an Encino attorney who said he is a 20-year friend of Allman.
``They said to her, `what do you want to do with the finger?' '' Sheldon said. ``She said `the finger is infected, you can't re-attach it and I don't want a souvenir.' ''
And the only problem with that -- one of many problems police are having with the case -- is that Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center has no record of a partial finger being left in its emergency room, said hospital spokeswoman Glenda McCartney.
``We do have a record of her being treated at the hospital,'' McCartney said. ``She was treated on Feb. 23 and released.''
However, she said, ``there is no record that the patient presented with a detached digit.'' She declined to say more, citing a federal medical privacy law.
The woman who said she found a fingertip in a bowl of Wendy's chili while dining in South San Jose on March 22 did not answer the phone at her Las Vegas home. On Tuesday, 39-year-old Anna Ayala decided not to pursue any legal action against Wendy's, saying the publicity has traumatized her and her family.
Ayala's decision came on the same day the Mercury News learned of Allman's accident which cost her the tip of a middle finger in Pahrump, which is about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.
Sheldon said he would bet his reputation that Allman is not involved with the case in any way, except for her finger.
``I've known this woman for 20 years,'' he said. ``She lives in a trailer in the middle of Pahrump, Nev. . . . with at least 17 dogs and I don't know how many cats. She never heard Anna Ayala's name until your newspaper called.''
Sheldon said Allman is willing to give a DNA sample and will cooperate with police. San Jose police did talk to Allman on Wednesday afternoon but did not ask her for a DNA sample, he said.
Police declined to discuss any details of the case that began when Ayala -- a former San Jose resident who now lives in Las Vegas -- said she found a human finger in her chili.
Five investigators are tracking down leads from across the country.
``We're exploring several avenues of investigation simultaneously,'' Capt. Dave Keneller said Wednesday. ``I can't comment any further because it could compromise the ongoing investigation.''
Keneller declined to say whether police will ask Allman for a DNA sample to compare with the chunk of finger found in the chili.
The Mercury News reported Tuesday that a leopard named Anthony bit off part of Allman's finger while she was preparing to turn over the exotic cat and other animals to a rescue group from an exotic animal sanctuary based just outside San Antonio.
Carol Asvestas, director of the Wild Animal Orphanage, called the Mercury News after first calling a tips hotline established by Wendy's.
Asvestas had gone to Allman's to rescue some exotic animals, including Anthony the leopard.
Allman was showing the animals to Asvestas and several other people when she turned ``and Anthony decided he wanted lunch,'' Sheldon said. ``He bit off part of her finger.''
``They then take this finger, put it on ice in a plastic bag and take it to whatever medical center in Pahrump,'' he said. ``They said you have to go to Las Vegas. She was transported to Mountain View Hospital in Las Vegas by ambulance. They look at it and say, `we can't re-attach it, maybe you should go to Sunrise Hospital.' ''
By then, he said, too much time had passed and it was no longer possible to successfully reattach the finger because the risk of infection was too great.
Allman had seen television news accounts of the finger found in a bowl of chili but had not paid attention to the name of the woman who found it, Sheldon said.
But on Wednesday, when Allman saw a picture of the finger found in the chili on television, she realized it most likely was hers, he said. Police say the Wendy's finger is 1 1/2 inches long and Sheldon said Allman's detached digit was three-quarters of an inch long.
Otherwise, ``it was a manicured finger, she manicures her nails,'' he said. ``We also know it wasn't cleanly cut, it was punctured.''
``I'm dying for police to do the DNA,'' Sheldon said. ``Once we know it's Sandy's finger, then the real question becomes: How did the finger get there? The answer is who knows somebody at Sunrise Hospital?''
Mercury News staff writer Sandra Gonzales contributed to this report. Contact Linda Goldston at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (408) 920-5862.
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