BUSHNELL, Fla. - A medical examiner testified Wednesday that a pet python strangled and then tried to eat a 2-year-old Sumter County girl.
The reptile got out of its terrarium and found its way into Shaianna Hare's crib on July 1, 2009.
The child's mother, 21-year-old Jaren Hare and her boyfriend, 34-year-old Charles Darnell are charged with manslaughter and child neglect. Lawyers for the two say the python was a family pet and that the death was an unpredictable accident.
Witnesses for the prosecution told a different story on Wednesday.
"Her cause of death was asphyxiation due to constriction by the snake," said Sumter Co. medical examiner, Dr. Wendy Lavezzi. "There were also several clusters of puncture wounds." Lavezzi said the bites indicated the python was trying to eat the child.
The prosecution said the python hadn't been fed for weeks and the reptile's hunger may have led it to little Shaianna's crib.
An expert witness for the state, Eugene Bessette, examined the python after the attack and said the eight and a half foot snake, named Gypsy, was about half the size and weight normal for it's age.
He also addressed the fact that the snake's terrarium was covered only with a quilt. "That particular item in the condition that it's in, with what it has on top of it, is totally, impossibly incapable of housing a Burmese python. It's impossible," Bessette testified.
The defense rested its case without calling any witnesses. Closing arguments are set for this morning.
If convicted, Hare and Darnell face up to 35 years in prison.
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