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Pet Burmese python strangles 2-year-old

Asphyxiation was ruled the preliminary cause of death of Shaianna Hare, the two-year-old Sumter County girl strangled to death by a pet Burmese python in her crib July 1. Sumter County Sheriff’s deputies found the child dead and the snake under some furniture, after it had been stabbed by its owner, when they responded to a call that a snake was strangling a child.

Charles Jason Darnell, 32, told officers he placed his 8-foot, 5-inch albino Burmese python in a bag and put it in an aquarium the night before. When he woke in the morning, he said he discovered the snake had escaped from both the bag and the aquarium and was on top of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

The medical examiner’s preliminary report listed asphyxiation as the cause of death and confirmed marks on the girl’s head and arms were bite marks, police said. Two older children were in the residence, but were unharmed.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigators removed the python and a red-tailed boa constrictor from the residence after the snakes’ owners voluntarily signed them over to the State of Florida.

The Burmese python is classified by the FWC as a “Reptile of Concern,” and state law requires a permit to possess them. Neither Darnell nor his girlfriend had the required $100 permit.

According to the FWC, there are currently some 450 licensees permitted to possess “Reptiles of Concern” and/or venomous reptiles in Florida.

One of the license requirements is that the snakes must be kept under lock and key, which was not the case in the tragic July 1 incident.