Local health officials say they may have identified the owner of a pet monkey that bit two children in a Columbia park and set off a statewide primate hunt.
Environmental health manager Gerry Worley told the Columbia Daily Tribune Friday that a Springfield woman is wanted for questioning in the incident.
The monkey saga began on Sept. 22, when a woman showed up at Stephens Lake Park with a monkey that bit 7-year-old Liam Ritten and an unnamed 11-year-old girl. Witnesses said the woman mouthed the words “I'm sorry” and left the park.
The monkey was identified through photographs as a rhesus macaque, a species known in rare instances to carry Simian B virus, a deadly disease.
Worley identified the animal's possible owner as Libby Brozovich, of Springfield. In a brief telephone interview with the Tribune, Brozovich denied any involvement.
“My monkey has not bitten anybody. All I can say to you is: Where is the proof? We're five hours away,” she said.
But Curtis Brozovich, of Mount Vernon, told the newspaper that he recognized his stepmother as the monkey's owner from a photograph of the pet and its owner taken in downtown Columbia the day of the bites. The two have been estranged for almost a year.
Libby Brozovich is well-known in Mount Vernon for carrying the monkey into stores and to public events, her stepson said.