Couple Convicted After Pet Python Kills Toddler
Charles Darnell made a panicked call to 911 to report that the family's pet snake had just killed his girlfriend's two-year-old daughter.
"Our snake, we have a Burmese python, and she's about 12-foot long. She got out of the cage last night, and got into the baby's crib and strangled her to death!"
Darnell was so distraught that all he could do was sob hysterically on the phone.
The snake, an albino Burmese python, had gotten out of its cage during the night. When the couple woke, they found it coiled tightly around little Shaiunna, its fangs embedded in her forehead. The toddler didn't stand a chance against the beast that animal expert Doug Dellecave says can easily kill a grown man.
"The Burmese python can reach 24, 25 feet and they can weigh over 300 pounds. It's a massive reptile. It's huge. The little girl had no chance at all. None," Dellecave told INSIDE EDITION.
The couple looked heartbroken that horrible morning, weeping as the ambulance took the little girl's lifeless body away. But prosecutors say this was much more than an accident. They are charging the toddler's mother, Jaren Hare, and her boyfriend with third degree murder, manslaughter, and child neglect.
"Although that Burmese python was the instrument of death, those two defendants are responsible for the death of Shaiunna Hare," the prosecutor said.
Prosecutors say the snake, a python named Gypsy, had not been fed for a month, its last meal was a squirrel the couple had found dead on the road. It was hungry and had slithered out of its cage more than five times that month alone looking for something to eat.
The couple says they had no idea the snake was a danger to their child. They have both pled not guilty.
"It was an accident, that's all," Darnell told a reporter.
But in a dramatic moment, prosecutors wheeled the snake's cage into the courtroom and showed how it wasn't even locked; they say the only thing keeping the snake in its tank was a quilt thrown over the top.
Dellecave says keeping a snake that size in the house was like leaving the toddler with a loaded gun. It was a disaster waiting to happen.
"A snake like this should never be around a child," he said.
The couple was just found guilty of third degree murder and child neglect. They could face 35 years behind bars.