Florida Couple Whose Snake Killed Toddler Gets 12 Years in Jail


snake A Florida couple who owned a deadly pet python has been sentenced to 12 years in prison because the snake escaped from its cage and strangled their 2-year-old daughter to death. Admittedly, it's almost impossible to feel sympathy for a couple who were dumb enough to put their toddler in such a precarious situation (especially this couple, as you will understand once the story unfolds). But 12 years is an awfully long sentence. And, it's not like they intended for the snake to kill their child ...

Here's what happened: Jaren Hare and her boyfriend Charles Darnell kept their 8-1/2-foot-long python, Gypsy, in their home -- in a laundry bag with a hole that was placed in a tank without a lock; the lid was simply a quilt held in place with safety pins. The snake had escaped from this "enclosure" 10 times in the two months leading up to the 2009 death, and Hare had testified that she was "thinking" about getting a lock for the lid.

Another important detail of the story: They hadn't fed the snake for a month. In other words, this very large, very deadly snake was STARVING. It doesn't take a zoologist to imagine what happened next: During the night, the python escaped. The next morning, Darnell found it wrapped around the head and body of Jaren's daughter, Shaianna; there were bite marks on her head and arms.

So, basically this couple was dumber than a bag of hammers and obviously should be punished for child neglect. And, this situation will hopefully serve as a valuable lesson for people to provide proper care for their pets and take appropriate safety precautions when there are small children around. But people shouldn't be jailed just for being stupid. After all, there are laws in place that allow them to have dangerous pets in their home. Am I the only one uncomfortable with this seemingly excessive punishment?

Not to mention the fact: Pet dogs kill more people each year than pet snakes. But, though the dogs are put down, typically dog owners get off with little more than short sentences and/or even just probation. Why did the jury feel compelled to make such an example of this couple and their snake -- especially after losing their daughter was likely punishment enough?


Image via Anderson Mancini/Flickr

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Ember... Emberbaby

"Pet dogs kill more people each year than pet snakes"' YES. However, there are more people with pet dogs than people with snakes for pets. So your point is moott!!

I think the jury got it right!

MomoJL MomoJL

This is not excessive.  A child is dead - stupidity can't be an excuse for a lesser sentence, not in this country.  Our prisons won't be crowded enough.

cocob... cocobeannns

I think the punishment seems a bit harsh. Obviously, the snake was starving, and was just looking for his next meal. It's not the couple's fault the snake chose their daughter for dinner, but it is their fault for failing to feed the thing for an entire month. I think they deserve some kind of punishment for child neglect AND animal cruelty. But, 12 years is a bit much.

nonmember avatar A

That's gross negligence and a child is dead because of it. The sentence is fine with me, especially because they probably won't serve it all anyway.

Even though they didn't intend that their snake would kill the baby, they were aware that it was a dangerous creature and not only neglected to take precautions to prevent it, but made a series of choices that practically guaranteed it. At least while they're locked up they won't be able to make more babies that they can neglect and kill by proxy.

sweet... sweetcherry_59

What they did was sick and they deserved the punishment they got. This just makes me so angry!

LoriA... LoriAnn87

What ass??? They should have taken more care of that snake but also put it in the right cage with locks and screws on it. We have a ball phyton and we had the snake since my son was 11 months but our snake never comes out of the cage unless he is getting feed or his cage is getting clean and my husband will feed and clean his cage once or twice a month. But our son is never around when he does this and he can't get to the locks. The closest my son has seen our snake is thought the glass of his cage.

dirti... dirtiekittie

it's a terrible tragedy that this woman lost her daughter - but this is why i'm against such exotic and dangerous animals as pets. i don't think it should be illegal to own them, but i think that if you do and have children in a home, there needs to be a choice. i can certainly understand attachment to an animal if they've been your pet for a long time and you love them (although personally, i could never love a snake - *shudder*) but you make a choice to do what's right for your children.

i originally thought 12 years was excessive - but then got to the parts the snake's lid was a QUILT!!!, it was kept in 'a laundry bag with a hole in it in the aquarium', the snake escaped 10 times in 2 months and they didn't feed the snake for a month.

that's bottom line negligence (of the child and really the snake as well) and had they been responsible pet owners, this tragedy wouldn't have happened. in addition, and please correct me if i'm wrong, i believe that florida in particular has quite a spotted history of problems with snake owners and them being released into the wild and whatnot. is the sentence harsh? yes. are they making an example out of these people? yes. is it justice for the little girl? hardly, and honestly i have a hard time feeling bad for this mother (btw, it says her kid, not theirs jointly) when she brought this situation on her own daughter.

Marjc... Marjchaos

I have kept snakes, and worked at a pet store. It is normal for very large snakes to eat once a month.  However, these people were criminally negligent and it resulted in a child's death. A terrifying painful death.  They got off light, IMO.

It really drives me nuts when people insist on keeping large reptiles in homes with small children.  They are not trainable. They have slow, simple brains that register little other than hunger, warm or cold. They are dangerous around small children because there is no difference to them between a baby and the rabbit you feed them, and there never will be. They are not smart enough. Yes, the snake was probably due to be fed and that is probably why it chose then to attack.  My heart breaks for that poor child, and I think her "parents" deserve life imprisonment.

Carol Turo

That poor child, she must have been terrified, what an awful way to go. It's just heart breaking to know how she must have suffered before she died.

Stacey Busenbark Sanders

The lack of proper enclosure is pure stupidity. We also have had a Burmese Python at times, and without a good enclosure they get out-and figuring it was getting out on a regular basis they should have fixed the problem. My husband got rid of out 12 footer while I was at the hospital with our firstborn-being responsible is knowing what you should/shouldn't have. And, as said before, it is normal for them to only eat once a month once they get big-so they do get very strike happy when it comes time to feed again-these parents need to pay! How horrible for that baby.

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