Pet python kills baby: Should parents be criminally charged?

Law enforcement officials remove a Burmese python,  measuring more than 8 feet long, from the home where it killed 2-year-old Shaunnia Hare in Oxford, Fla. on Wednesday morning, July 1, 2009. The Sumter County Sheriff's Office said Charles Jason Darnell, the snake's owner and the boyfriend of Shaunnia's mother, discovered the snake missing from its aquarium and went to the girl's room, where he found it on the girl and bite marks on her head. Darnell, 32, stabbed the snake until he was able to pry the child away. (AP Photo/St. Petersburg Times, Will Vragovic)

Law enforcement officials remove a Burmese python, measuring more than 8 feet long, from the home where it killed 2-year-old Shaunnia Hare in Oxford, Fla. on Wednesday morning, July 1, 2009. (AP Photos)

You may have seen the very upsetting story from Florida about the 8 ½-foot-long pet Burmese python that escaped from its glass aquarium in the living room, slithered into a 2-year-old’s bedroom, coiled itself around the baby and killed it.

Now the question is: Should the parents be criminally charged and if so, to what extent?

Ocala.com reports: The parents, 32-year-old Charles Jason Darnell and 23-year-old Jaren Ashley Hare, could face charges ranging from child abuse to aggravated manslaughter. Or no charges at all.

Prosecutors will carefully assess to what degree culpable negligence played a part in the child’s death.

“Culpable negligence is defined as involving acts of such ‘gross and flagrant character’ to evince ‘reckless disregard of human life or of the safety of persons.’ ”

” ‘If [Darnell] is a caregiver and if he acted with culpable negligence, they could consider a charge for aggravated manslaughter of a child,’ said Kendall Coffey, a former U.S. attorney from South Florida, raising one hypothetical scenario.”

Manslaughter, a first-degree felony, is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

“But by his accounts, Stetson University criminal law professor Robert Batey believes culpable negligence can be ‘a fairly difficult standard to reach.’ ”

” ‘Maybe the parents here used pretty poor judgment, but [the state may determine] it doesn’t rise to the level of culpable negligence,’ he said.

“Such factors in reaching a decision, Batey added, include how secure the python’s cage was to the proximity of the cage to the baby’s crib to factual reports that the python had escaped once earlier in the night and was placed back in its cage by the father.”

What do you think: Was it completely beyond their control, just poor judgment, or did they do something criminally wrong? Would you think differently if a large dog attacked and killed the child? Have the parents been punished enough just knowing their pet killed their baby? (I can’t even imagine living with that! I want to go up and check my 2-year-old right now!) What would an appropriate punishment be?


109 comments Add your comment

The Sarge

July 23rd, 2009
12:18 am

Other than the obvious stupidity displayed by people pretending to be responsible parents, let’s look at precedent:

If a bartender serves too much alcohol to a patron and said patron is involved in a fatal accident, the bartender, by law, is culpable.

By the same token, these “make-believe” parents made available, in proximity to a defenseless child, an animal of disastrously dangerous potential. This was tantamount to placing a stick of dynamite in a kid’s right hand, a match in the kid’s left hand, and saying “be careful”.

These parents should be held criminaly responsible to the fullest extent.

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Kaye

August 1st, 2009
7:25 pm

I was asked at the beginnig of this thread to tell where I had heard that the snake was not feed and that was what it was looking for:
http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/orl-bk-killer-python-owner-speaks-073109,0,3498768.story
Snake experts such as Andrew Wyatt, president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, question Darnell’s story, particularly the part about the snake reaching sexual maturity.

A Burmese that old weighing 12.3 pounds had to be “emaciated,” he said.

“That animal was not sexually mature. That animal was undernourished,” Wyatt said

Thus proving the mother and the boyfriend were stupid, criminal and should be charged not only in the childs death but the abuse of the snake.

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Bobby Jackobob

February 22nd, 2010
2:31 pm

THEY LOST THEIR BABY THEY DONT NEED CRIMINAL CHARGES IT WAS AN ACCIDENT

terry

March 31st, 2010
11:20 pm

Does anybody know, if they had furry animals?

denise

June 16th, 2010
4:50 pm

I really feel like they are going through enough.Maybe the snake should of been outside.We can say maybe ourself all day. But what if it had gotten out an killed someone else child, than charges yes,but not with there chld.They got to live with that for the rest of their life,an to me that is a harder time to do.To the family may GOD be with you an your family.Im sorry for your lost.