A Little Off the Top


After a six month hiatus, your periodic post of humanity’s most questionable moments. Today, my home state of Florida provides the rather sad and disturbing material for our latest examination of bad, bad ideas.


Wednesday morning, a Burmese python attacked and killed a 2 year old toddler in Sumter County. The large constricting snake bit and then strangled the kid to death. Definitely a tragic story.

Here’s the news release from tampabay.com:

— An autopsy performed on a Sumter County 2-year-old girl determined she died of asphyxiation after authorities said she was squeezed and bitten by her family’s Burmese python Wednesday.

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Children and Families are investigating. It’s unclear if any criminal charges will be filed over the python incident, but if so it likely will not happen this week or next, said Paul Magrino, a homicide prosecutor for the Sumter County state attorney.

“The autopsy was only done this morning, and there’s still some additional investigation to be done,” Magrino said Thursday. “Generally speaking, whenever you have the death of a small child in a home under circumstances that demonstrate something other than natural causes, it certainly has to be investigated.”

Shaiunna Hare was in her crib Wednesday morning when deputies say the 8-foot-, 6-inch python escaped its enclosure and entered her room. It repeatedly bit her and squeezed her to death before her mother’s boyfriend, Charles Darnell, awoke and found the snake missing.

Darnell, 32, called 911 around 9:40 a.m. and sobbed as he reported the snake had strangled the girl. He freed her, deputies say, by stabbing the snake with a 6-inch knife and meat cleaver.

Deputies and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers got a warrant to enter the home and removed the pet python and a 6-foot boa constrictor. The python was treated at a veterinary hospital, commission spokesman Gary Morse said, and is being held as evidence until the investigation is completed.

Darnell did not have a state permit to own the python and could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.

The Department of Children and Families removed two other children from the home after Wednesday’s incident, said DCF spokeswoman Carrie Hoeppner.

The agency also visited the home in May 1 after a complaint was filed that Darnell and Shaiunna’s mother, 19-year-old Jaren Hare, alleging drug abuse and physical abuse of the children. An investigator visited the home and noted that Darnell was agitated by DCF’s visit and admitted smoking marijuana, but the home had running hot and cold water, was clean and had food, and there were no immediate dangers inside the house. The case was closed June 12.

“I have no doubt if my investigators saw something of concern, whether it was an abused cat or a dangerous dog or some animal that posed a hazard to the children, we would pursue that,” Hoeppner said. “I do know the investigator observed and documented one of the snakes.”

When a photo of officers carrying the snake from the home was published Wednesday on tampabay.com, the web site of the St. Petersburg Times, readers posted anonymous comments questioning the health of the snake, speculating on its size and wondering if it had been starved.

It was just a skinny snake, not starved, said Morse. “It was in good health,” Morse said. “The snake was well-fed and well taken care of for an 8-foot, 6-inch python.”

Magrino said its too early to determine whether Darnell and Hare could be charged with a crime. If charges are filed, “It could be anything from perhaps child neglect to a (manslaughter) homicide.”

Emily Nipps

Python swallowing a sheep

That’s what a Burmese python looks like after swallowing a pregnant sheep whole. You can bet it would have done the same to the little girl as well. Apparently in the 70’s there was a case where one of these pythons swallowed an 8 year old boy whole. Wow.

Warning: Video is Graphic. Do not play if you don’t want to see it.

And that video is of a small snake. Look on youtube for the 12 footer. It takes out a goose. Wow.

What in the world is a 8 foot python doing in the same house as a little kid? The facts are these. The snake has had an “escape” history. The owner did not have the appropriate permit/licenses for owning an “exotic” animal. The guy and the 19 year old “Baby’s Mama” are drug users!

What the heck is this guy doing with exotic animals? And you’re telling me that all he might face is a misdemeanor? I understand that it was an accident. But this tragic event as well as the chimpanzee attack a few months ago bring the issue of individuals owning animals that aren’t normally domesticated again to the critical spotlight.

Should “exotic” animal ownership be illegal across the board? While local laws do say a permit is needed, it is clearly not being enforced to the degree it should have been. Sales of these types of animals needs to be controlled and limited to people who already have a license.

But of course, we ALL know that most of these animals are obtained illegally anyway. The penalty for importation and distribution should be stiffer, let alone the penalty for possession. It baffles me that this guy is only going to basically get a slap on the wrist.

The Heap’s take: There is no reason why any unqualified individual, permit or not, should have access to exotic animals. A license should only be granted after AMPLE education and hands on experience and care of such animals. However, this extends to certain animals only. Snakes would be allowable, but something like a Burmese python would not. Exotic animals that are deemed to be stronger than men should not be allowed under ANY circumstances. Chimps and other primates, wild cats and dogs, etc. should not be allowed to be owned at your home, no matter if you have a license to do so.

Please vote in my poll!