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Finger Finder Decides Not to File Suit

Times Staff Writer

A woman who claimed she bit into a severed human finger while eating chili at a Wendy’s restaurant in San Jose last month has decided not to sue the fast-food chain because of the emotional trauma she has endured in the case, her former lawyer said Wednesday.

“It’s just the fact that this has been emotionally distressing, this whole circus atmosphere,” including reporters camping on her lawn, said San Jose attorney Jeffrey Janoff. “She doesn’t want to deal with it anymore. She’s upset over the continual bombardment of questioning.”

Janoff said he had now “withdrawn from the matter,” but would not elaborate.

Anna Ayala -- who said she found the fingertip, which appeared to be that of a female, in her chili bowl March 22 -- initially filed a claim with the restaurant franchise owner, Fresno-based JEM Management Corp., pending filing a lawsuit.

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Janoff could not say whether Ayala still stood by her claim that she found the finger in her food. Ayala, 39, of Las Vegas, could not be reached for comment.

San Jose police investigating Ayala’s claim said Wednesday that they were looking into a possible connection with a woman who lost part of a finger in a Feb. 23 leopard attack at an exotic animal compound at her home in Pahrump, a rural Nevada town about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.

A lawyer for Sandy Allman, 59, told Associated Press that Allman believes the fingertip was hers, but that she had “absolutely no connection with Ms. Ayala.”

“She thinks it’s her finger,” lawyer Philip Sheldon said from his office in Encino. “She wants to participate in any DNA testing and any final resolution of that matter.”

Sheldon said Allman last saw the 3/4 -inch tip of her middle finger packed with ice in a plastic bag on an emergency-room table at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas early Feb. 24 where he said she sought treatment after the leopard attack.

Allman left it after doctors told her it could not be reattached, Sheldon said.

“She has no idea what happened to the finger after she left the hospital,” Sheldon said.

Hospital spokeswoman Glenda McCartney, who confirmed to Associated Press on Wednesday that Allman was treated in the Sunrise emergency room Feb. 23 and released early Feb. 24, said the hospital had not been able to account for the finger at its pathology lab, where it should have been taken.

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McCartney said there was no record of Ayala as a Sunrise employee or of her or her children being treated as patients there.

Bob Bertini, a spokesman for the Dublin, Ohio-based Wendy’s International Inc., would not comment on Ayala’s decision not to file suit, but said his company “continues to cooperate with the police.”

Wendy’s has set up a toll-free number (800) 821-3348 and is offering $50,000 to the first person who can provide legitimate information leading to the origin of the finger.

San Jose police spokeswoman Gina Tepoorten said police had received several leads from the general public.

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She said attempts to find a match for the partial fingerprint on the FBI’s electronic database of missing people and those with a criminal background had failed, but DNA testing was still being conducted.

News of the finger in the chili has negatively affected sales at Wendy’s, according to company representatives.

Bertini said the Santa Clara County Health Department had given the San Jose franchise a clean bill of health, and internal investigations indicated that the finger did not enter the chili during its preparation. There had been no reports of any of the San Jose restaurant employees or its suppliers losing a finger, Bertini said.


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