Savage Says Daughter's Death After Leopard Attack Was DestinyLISE BICKHAM , Associated Press
May. 27, 1988 9:21 PM ET
NASHVILLE, TENN. NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ An entertainer whose 2-year-old daughter was mauled to death by a leopard used in his act said Friday that her death was an act of fate.
''We have no choice over life or death,'' Joe Savage said at a news conference. ''The cage that was involved in this was locked ... how and why this happened is nothing short of mystical.''
Nikka, daughter of Savage and his girlfriend, Kimberly Wilson, died of head wounds, blood loss and shock after the attack Wednesday, doctors said.
The leopard, Tabu, got out of its cage outside Savage's farm house in suburban Nashville and mauled the child.
The cat was tranquilized after the attack and died a short time later while being taken for a 10-day quarantine to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Center.
''I think that he (God) protected her from growing up in this world, this society that is worse than any Amazon jungle,'' Savage said.
Savage flew to Nashville Thursday from Las Vegas where he was performing. He leads a touring rock 'n' roll act in which he sings and performs with pythons and leopards.
Police said the attack was an accident and didn't anticipate any charges.
Savage's older daughter, Julie Saccio, 24, said in a telephone interview from her home in Charlotte, N.C., that she has taken care of her father's five leopards occasionally but feared only Tabu.
Ms. Saccio, who said her father legally changed his name for show business reasons about 15 years ago, said she took care of the leopards most recently in January and February.
''The black ones (leopards) were pretty tame. It was just Tabu - my dad raised Tabu with a Rottweiler, and after that dog was killed in California, that cat went nuts,'' Ms. Saccio said.
''My dad was the only one who could get around it.''
Ms. Saccio said she lives with her mother, Emily Saccio, and that she has a brother, Joey, also in his 20s.
Police Chief Joe Casey said authorities think Ms. Wilson left Nikka outside for a moment while she went into the house, ''and when she came out, the cat was on the kid.''
Four other cats also escaped from the cage but police and wildlife officials herded them back in.
Ms. Saccio said she didn't know how the cats could have gotten loose.
''The fences were tightly secured. That's why I thought maybe she (Ms. Wilson) had cleaned the cage or fed them, then left it unlocked,'' Ms. Saccio said. ''These animals are very smart. Leopards can turn a knob.''