LAGUNA HILLS, Calif. -- Misty, the rogue elephant that stomped her trainer to death and fled Lion Country Safari in a rampage, was spared execution Monday despite reports she had a history of violent behavior.
'There are no plans to kill her,' said Pat Moore, a spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game.
Tom Carota, an executive of the animal-training firm that owns Misty, said the 3-ton elephant would not return to the Orange County park. 'What we are looking for is a suitable home for her to live out her years,' he said.
Misty, a 25-year-old Indian elephant used for rides at the Orange County wild animal park, also smashed a park pickup truck and scattered employees before she was calmed and captured after a nearly three-hour chase Sunday morning.
The San Diego Freeway was temporarily closed for fear Misty would bolt into traffic, and 300 people were evacuated from a nearby swap meet.
The elephant, one of four that give rides to children at the park about 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles, broke free from its chains in a maintenance yard where the animals were kept Saturday night because of fears they might be spooked by rock music at a nearby amphitheater.
Park officials called zoologist Lee Keaton, the park's chief game warden, to help restrain her, but the elephant chased him and stepped on his head when he either fell or was knocked to the ground.
Moore said a preliminary investigation by state officials and animal control officers found no violations of animal care or control laws, and tests were conducted to see if Misty suffered any physical ailments.
Howard Johnson, an exotic animal trainer who picked up Misty Sunday afternoon and kept her in a specially-designed 40-foot trailer at his ranch in rural Riverside County, said the elephant was well behaved Monday.
But Johnson also said that Misty is 'known for hurting people' and added, 'That elephant should definitely not have been at Lion Country Safari. Everybody knew she was mean.'
Dave Wilson, a trainer at the park, said Misty attacked him three weeks ago.
'I had to use an electrical prod to get her off me,' Wilson said. 'That's all that saved my life. The people here at the park knew that Misty had problems.'
Carota denied the allegations.
'This animal's been in the entertainment industry for almost 15 years without incident,' he said. He also suggested that Keaton's death was 'provoked because he went into an area he shouldn't have.'
The incident was the third animal attack at the park in the past year. A chimpanzee attacked and injured its handler in March, and a 2-year-old boy was mauled by a tiger last October.
Five years ago a hippopotamus named Bubbles gained national attention when it escaped and lumbered two miles to a large pond, where it died 19 days later after being shot with a tranquilizer gun.