[UPDATE] Couple Gets 12 Years Each in Toddler Snake Strangulation Case

By: CBS News; Associated Press
By: CBS News; Associated Press

Couple Gets 12 Years Each in Toddler Snake Strangulation Case

Bushnell, FL -- August 24, 2011 --

A central Florida couple has been sentenced to 12 years in prison each for the death of the woman's toddler, who was strangled in her crib by a pet python.

A Sumter County judge sentenced 21-year-old mother Jaren Hare
and her live-in boyfriend, 34-year-old Charles "Jason" Darnell,
on Wednesday. They were both convicted last month of manslaughter, third-degree murder and child neglect. Both previously rejected plea agreements for 10 years in prison.

Authorities say an 8-foot-6-inch albino Burmese python wrapped
itself around 2-year-old Shianna Hare's head on July 1, 2009.
Testimony revealed the snake had not been fed for a month before
the attack.

Defense attorneys argued that the death was an accident, and
there was no way to know that the tame pet would kill a child.

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Couple Guilty in Toddler Snake Strangulation Case

[UPDATE] 7-14 2:55pm - BUSHNELL, Fla. (AP) --

A central Florida couple has been convicted in the death of the woman's toddler, who was strangled in her crib by a pet python.

A Sumter County jury found 21-year-old mother Jaren Hare and her
live-in boyfriend, 34-year-old Charles "Jason" Darnell, guilty
Thursday of manslaughter, third-degree murder and child neglect.
They each face 35 years in prison. Both previously rejected plea
agreements for 10 years in prison.

Authorities say an 8-foot-6-inch albino Burmese python wrapped
itself around 2-year-old Shianna Hare's head on July 1, 2009.
Testimony revealed the snake had not been fed for a month before
the attack.

Defense attorneys argued that the death was an accident, and
there was no way to know that the tame pet would kill a child.

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UPDATE ----- 7/14/11 ---- Sumter County, Florida

A Florida jury is expected to begin deliberating Thursday afternoon in the controversial snake attack trial.

Jury selection was held Wednesday morning in Sumter County. It will be up to them to decide if the toddler's mother and her boyfriend are responsible for their two year old's death.

Defense attorneys argued there's no evidence their clients committed murder or manslaughter because it was a snake that escaped and killed the two-year old.

The defense asked the judge to dismiss the charges, saying their clients had no knowledge the snake could kill a child. But the judge argued that the danger of snakes is common knowledge.

Evidence showed that the snake was not correctly secured in its cage. The couple had also not fed the python in over a month, which may have led it to hunt for food around the house.

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UPDATE ----- 7/12/11

A 2-year-old Florida girl was strangled in her sleep by a pet python last summer. Now the police have called it murder and are putting the girl's mother and her boyfriend on trial today in Sumter County Florida.

Charles Darnell and Jaren Hare were asked about being accused in baby Shaianna's death.

"We've lost a child. How do you think we feel?" said Darnell.

Defense Attorney Rhiannon Arnold says, "Sometimes there's not anything you can do. Would there have been anything to prevent this. Hindsight is 20/20. We could back and do things, this wasn't something anyone ever dealt with."

They're the first couple in Florida history to be charged with murder because a child in their care was killed by a snake. The couple was not licensed to own an exotic snake. Both tested positive for drug use months before that attack.
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Press Release

Asphyxiation is the preliminary cause of death of Shaianna Hare (DOB 05-20-2007), the 2-year-old Sumter County girl found dead in her crib with the family’s Burmese python wrapped around her body Wednesday morning, according to Lt. Bobby Caruthers of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

“The medical examiner’s preliminary report lists asphyxiation as the cause of death and confirmed the marks on the girl’s head and arms are bite marks,” Caruthers said at a press briefing in Bushnell today.

Meanwhile, the python is being cared for at an undisclosed facility licensed to possess this type of snake.

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

A veterinarian examined and treated the python’s stab wounds, and the snake is recovering at the undisclosed facility, where it will remain until officials complete the investigation into the child’s death.

“At this point, the snake is evidence in the case. However, once the case has been concluded, it will be offered as a donation to the facility that is currently caring for it,” said FWC investigator Janice Jones.

The Burmese python, classified by the FWC as a Reptile of Concern, had been stabbed by Charles Jason Darnell (DOB 03-26-77) after he found it wrapped around little Shaianna, his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter, Wednesday morning. Darnell said the snake had escaped its cage sometime during the night.

State law requires that people have permits to possess Burmese pythons, or any Reptile of Concern. Neither Darnell nor his girlfriend, Jaren Ashley Hare (DOB 09-08-89), had a permit for a snake. A permit costs $100 annually, and those wishing to possess such an animal must show on their application their understanding of animal husbandry, nutrition and caging requirements for the particular animal.

One requirement for a Reptile of Concern is that it must be kept under lock and key. The snake was not.

FWC investigators are working in conjunction with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which covers Sumter, Lake, Marion, Citrus and Hernando counties. The FWC’s role is to investigate and recommend any charges relating to violations of the captive wildlife rules. Such violations are second-degree misdemeanors, which are criminal and carry a maximum penalty of $500 fine and 60 days in jail.


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