Jan 25th 2010 By Chip Carter
In Sarasota, Fla., a chimpanzee diapered up and headed for court Friday morning, the subject of a custody battle between two apparently very sad people.
Eli is a 13-lb., 11-month-old baby chimpanzee. His, uh, dad, Michael Casey, says Eli was born at his Missouri monkey farm and that his ex-wife, Virginia Valbuena, ran off with the chimp. Ms. Valbuena claims Eli actually came from a California wildlife park, so Mr. Casey filed suit seeking a DNA test to prove who's the monkey's uncle.
Ms. Valbuena moved to Sarasota after the divorce and says she is raising Eli to be a Hollywood star. Mr. Casey says the monkey is worth $65,000 and would like life in Missouri better.
And on Thursday, Eli (pictured with his attorney, Richard Lee Buckle) became the first chimp to appear in a court of law when Valbuena could not find an ape-sitter.
Keep reading to hear from Eli's lawyer and see video of the chimp with his "mom."
Under Florida law, it is illegal to own chimpanzees because they sometimes do things like rip people's faces off with their super strength
. Licensed exhibitors, which Valbuena says she is, are exempt from the rule. Casey says he will drop the suit if DNA tests show Eli did not come from his monkey farm. However, Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Charles Roberts denied Casey's request without prejudice Friday, saying there is no precedent that shows ape DNA is a reliable marker of paternity.
The monkey's attorney, Richard Lee Buckle of Bradenton, Fla., told Asylum Monday, "What the judge told this guy that really hasn't been printed is, 'Look buddy, you haven't brought me any scientific evidence that the ability of a laboratory to establish DNA on apes is admissible as evidence.' He's going to require some laboratory to come forth and say, 'We've done this testing on apes and it is reliable.'"
Attorneys for both sides noted this is the first case in Florida involving the paternity of a chimpanzee. It was a bit disturbing that they had to note "in Florida."