Couple charged in python strangling

OXFORD, Fla. (AP) - August 25, 2009

The Sumter County Sheriff's Office says 19-year-old /*Jaren Ashley Hare*/ and her boyfriend, 32-year-old /*Charles Jason Darnell*/, were each charged Monday with manslaughter, third-degree murder and child abuse.

Two-year-old /*Shaianna Hare*/ died July 1. Authorities say Darnell found the 8-foot python wrapped around her that morning. He stabbed it several times and it eventually released her. A medical examiner determined the girl died from asphyxiation.

Hare and Darnell were each being held on $35,000 bond. Court documents that would list attorneys for them have not yet been processed.

Shaunnia Hare was already dead when paramedics arrived at about 10 a.m., Lt. Bobby Caruthers of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office said.

Authorities removed the snake from the home. Once outside the small, tan home, bordered by cow pastures, the snake was placed in a bag then inside a dog crate. The snake was still alive.

Darnell did not have a permit for the snake, which would be a second-degree misdemeanor, said Joy Hill, a spokeswoman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The Humane Society of the United States said including Hare's death, at least 12 people have been killed in the U.S. by pet pythons since 1980, including five children.

Burmese pythons are not native to Florida, but they easily survive in the state and can reach a length of 26 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds.

Some owners have freed pythons into the wild and a population of them has taken hold in the Everglades. One killed an alligator and then burst when it tried to eat it. Scientists also speculate a bevy of Burmese pythons escaped in 1992 from pet shops battered by Hurricane Andrew and have been reproducing since.

"It's becoming more and more of a problem, perhaps no fault of the animal, more a fault of the human," said Jorge Pino, a state wildlife commission spokesman. "People purchase these animals when they're small. When they grow, they either can't control them or release them."

George Van Horn, owner of Reptile World Serpentarium in St. Cloud, said the strangulation could have occurred because the snake felt threatened or because it thought the child was food.

"They are always operating on instinct," he said. "Even the largest person can become overpowered by a python."

Oxford is about 50 miles northwest of Orlando.

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