OXFORD – The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office responded to a Sumter County residence on Wednesday morning after receiving a call that a snake was strangling a child. When the officers arrived on the scene, the child was dead, and the snake was found under furniture, having been stabbed by its owner.
Charles Jason Darnell (DOB 03-26-77) told officers he placed his 8-foot, 5-inch albino Burmese python in a bag and put it in an aquarium Tuesday night. When Darnell woke in the morning, he said he discovered the snake had escaped from both the bag and the aquarium. He told investigators that he discovered the python on top of Shaiunna Hare, age 2, and then he stabbed the snake before calling 911, according to Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Bobby Caruthers.
Darnell is the boyfriend of the child’s mother, Jaren Ashley Hare (DOB 09-08-85). Two older children were also in the residence at the time of death. They were unharmed.
The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is leading the investigation with help from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“This is a very sad situation,” said Sheriff Bill Farmer. “We’ve never had anything like this in Sumter County or even Florida. To keep a large, unsecured snake in the house is just asking for trouble.”
Burmese pythons are classified as Reptiles of Concern, and their owners must secure permits from the FWC’s Captive Wildlife Section to keep them as pets. Approximately 450 licensees currently are permitted to possess Reptiles of Concern and/or venomous reptiles in Florida. The license costs $100 per year and mandates specific caging specifications and other requirements. Permits are issued to individuals at specific locations. No permit had been issued to Darnell or the residence in Sumter County. It is a second-degree misdemeanor to possess a Reptile of Concern without a permit.
Burmese pythons pose little risk to humans, and there have been no other documented attacks in Florida. Documented human attacks by pythons in the United States have involved the snake’s owner or immediate family.
The snake was alive when officers removed it from the house on Wednesday afternoon. Investigators still are gathering information in the case.