Florida Child Killed by Python
Oxford, Florida - Authorities said they found a 2-year-old girl dead in her bed Wednesday after receiving a call that a python was strangling the child.
Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said that when the sheriff and the medical examiner arrived on the scene, they confirmed that 2-year-old Shaiunna Hare had died.
The snake's owner, Charles Jason Darnell, 32, lives at the Oxford home with the child and her mother, Jaden Ashley Hare, 23. Darnell found the snake on top of the child when he got out of bed Wednesday morning, and stabbed it.
Lt. Bobby Caruthers of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said that the "snake was found on top of the child, and the child had a bite mark on her head."
The family has been interviewed by sheriff's deputies and officials from the FWC.
Morse said Burmese pythons are "reptiles of concern that require a permit, and training in animal husbandry and proper caging." Morse said Darnell did not have a permit.
The medical examiner has not confirmed the cause of death, and the investigation is ongoing.
Darnell told officers he placed his 8-foot, 5-inch albino Burmese python in a bag and put it in an aquarium Tuesday night, according to an FWC statement. When Darnell woke in the morning, he said he discovered the snake had escaped from both the bag and the aquarium.
He told investigators that he discovered the python on top of Shaiunna and then he stabbed the snake before calling 911, according Lt. Bobby Caruthers of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office.
Two older children were also in the residence at the time, but they were not harmed.
The Sumter County Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation with help from the FWC.
"This is a very sad situation," said Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer. "We've never had anything like this in Sumter County or even Florida. To keep a large, unsecured snake in the house is just asking for trouble."
Another snake - a boa constrictor between six and eight feet long - was also found in the house, but no permit is needed for constrictors.
According to the Florida Wildlife Commission, pythons are a non-native species to Florida, although some Burmese pythons have been found in parts of the state.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has long urged Congress to ban the import and trade of the Burmese python. Under a bill he has introduced repeatedly in the Senate, pythons would immediately be added to a list of wildlife deemed invasive by federal biologists.
Currently, such animals are placed on a federal "injurious list" only after they have caused widespread damage to the environment, human health or the economy. The process, however, often takes several years or longer.