Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Couple guilty in case of strangled girl by Burmese python (Via HerpDigest)

Couple guilty in case of strangled girl by Burmese python
By Millard K. Ives, Staff Writer, 7/16/11

In what is believed to be the first verdict of its kind in Florida, a Sumter County jury found a couple guilty Thursday in the death of her child, Shaianna Hare, who was strangled by the couple's pet Burmese python.

Jaren Hare, 21, and her former live-in boyfriend, Charles "Jason" Darnell, 34, were tried on third-degree murder, manslaughter and child abuse and face up to 45 years in prison.

They had rejected a plea deal on Monday for 10 years in prison.

Lawyers for the defendants had tagged the snake docile and a family pet, in which children in the couple's Oxford home regularly played with.

Hare's attorney Ismael Solis compared it to a pit bull house pet that "just went crazy" in a terrible accident.

"There was no way in her mind she could have thought she could eat that baby," Darnell said of the snake during a videotaped interview with detectives.

But the six-person jury didn't buy it and took less than two hours to bring back guilty verdicts on all charges -- at which time Hare sobbed as Darnell tried to console her.

"The snake is not at fault in this case. It's a wild animal. The responsibility for the death of that child is those defendants right there," said prosecutor Pete Magrino, pointing at the couple.

In a video-taped interview with detectives, Hare had admitted the snake, named Gypsy, had escaped at least 10 times prior to July 1, 2009, when it was found in Shaianna's crib, wrapped around her lifeless body on a bloody sheet.

It apparently had slithered out of it aquarium.

And the aquarium's lid was a quilt fastened by safety pins. And, sometimes for added measure, Darnell said he kept it in a clothes bag in the aquarium, but admitted it had a small hole in it.

A snake farmer said on his farm, such snakes average 15 to 16 feet long and weigh roughly 140 pounds. The python that killed Shaianna Hare, although it was 8 1/2 feet long, weighed less than 15 pounds.
The prosecution said the snake was malnourished. A medical examiner testified the snake had basically tried to ingest the child.

Darnell apparently had feed the snake in a month, a pet that usually fed on road kill squirrels Darnell found.

According to media sources, the foreperson from this jury did not want to be identified, offered insight how they reached the verdict. "Even under the most remote circumstances, it was possible that the child could be injured. And it was their duty to make sure there was no possibility that a 2-year-old would be bitten or anyway harmed."

It believed this is the first time in Florida that a couple has stood trial in a snake strangulation death of a child. And the case is considered the only known attack in Florida of a nonvenomous constrictor killing a child.

Magrino said in an interview before the trial started he was unaware of any similar trials. But he added it didn't deter him from wanting to try the couple.

"It was a case that needed to be tried," Magrino said.

Judge William Hallman set the sentencing date for Aug. 24.

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