FESTUS, Mo. — Tonia Haddix is facing possible federal prosecution for her elaborate story about Tonka the Chimp. She claimed the chimpanzee was dead when she really had it locked in her basement. She offered no apologies in a comment to FOX 2.

Haddix intervened in a lawsuit years ago, in which the animal rights group PETA sued a Festus, Missouri chimpanzee compound – hoping to get the chimps better homes. Now, Haddix could face prison time for claiming one of the chimps was dead so it wouldn’t be taken.

Today, Tonka the chimp is stretching out at his new home in Florida with the organization called “Save the Chimps.” Tonka is an old movie star, having appeared in films like the 1997 comedy Buddy. For the last several years, he’s been in the middle of a federal court battle that led to his strange disappearance.

Tonia Haddix said Tonka was dead. He’d been living with six other chimps at the Festus compound. The animal rights group PETA sued, claiming the animals were not getting proper care.

PETA arranged for all the chimpanzees to go to a Florida animal sanctuary, except Tonka was missing. Haddix told a federal judge he died. She repeated her claim to FOX 2 after the hearing, saying on July 14, 2021: “I found him in the cage. It was probably Saturday late night. I found him Sunday when I went down there.”

We followed up with the question, “So you stand by the assertion that Tonka’s dead?”

“Yes,” Haddix said. “I will gladly give PETA a piece of their ashes or some ashes so that they DNA test that too to make sure they know it’s chimpanzee or Tonka’s bloodline or Tonka that is in that box. I offered to give them the ashes, but they told me I couldn’t bring them to the federal courthouse because of some kind of thing with cross-contamination or some kind of stuff.”

Tonka was found 11 months later in a cage in Haddix’s Lake of the Ozark’s home basement.

The federal judge on the case has now made a criminal referral to federal prosecutors for perjury – an offense that can bring up to five years in prison if convicted.

Haddix told FOX 2 on Monday that she’s unable to talk on camera. She sent the following message: “I still stand on my promise to Tonka, and I would do anything to protect him from the evil clutches of PETA and the hell hole they placed him in. And that if the judicial system was just, he never would have left the only home he’s ever known.”

PETA said the pictures tell the real story and that you can compare the basement cage where Tonka was in hiding for about a year to the Florida sanctuary, where he can choose to be inside or outside — and he can see other chimpanzees.

Haddix was due in court this coming Wednesday to answer for her contempt of court. That’s been canceled, as criminal charges are now being considered for perjury. The judge said she’ll reschedule the contempt hearing if those criminal charges are declined.