Python blamed in Florida girl’s death

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Modified: July 2, 2009 at 4:20 am •  Published: July 2, 2009
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OXFORD, Fla. — A 12-foot pet Burmese python escaped a terrarium and strangled a 2-year-old girl in her bedroom Wednesday at a central Florida home, authorities said.

Shaunnia Hare was already dead when paramedics arrived about 10 a.m., Lt. Bobby Caruthers of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said.

Charles Jason Darnell, the snake’s owner and boyfriend of Shaunnia’s mother, discovered the snake missing and went to the girl’s room, where he found it on the girl and bite marks on her head, Caruthers said. Darnell, 32, stabbed the snake until he could pry the child away.

"The baby’s dead!” a sobbing caller from the house screamed to a 911 dispatcher in a recording. "Our stupid snake got out in the middle of the night and strangled the baby.”

Authorities did not identify the caller and removed the person’s name from the recording.

Authorities removed the snake from the home Wednesday afternoon. Once outside, the snake was placed in a bag then inside a dog crate. The snake was still alive.

Darnell did not have a permit for the snake, which would be a second-degree misdemeanor, said Joy Hill, a spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He has not been charged, but Caruthers said investigators were looking into whether there was child neglect.

Hill said the snake will be placed with someone who has a permit, pending an investigation.

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