Child Dies After Being Strangled by Pet Python in Florida

A 2-year-old Florida girl died after being strangled by a pet python that escaped from its aquarium and attacked her in her crib, police said.

Shaiunna Hare was strangled early Wednesday morning by the 8-foot, 5-inch snake as she slept after it got out of its tank in another room of the house, according to Sumter County Sheriff's Lt. Steve Binegar.

Paramedics said the little girl was dead when they arrived at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the central Florida home in Oxford, about 50 miles northwest of Orlando.

Deputies told FOX Tampa affiliate WTVT that the live-in boyfriend of the little girl's mother may face charges for not having a permit for the snake, a Burmese python.

Jaren Ashley Hare, 21, and her daughter shared the home with Hare's boyfriend, 32-year-old Charles Jason Darnell, deputies said.

"The baby's dead!" a sobbing caller from the house screamed to a 911 dispatcher in a recording. "Our stupid snake got out in the middle of the night and strangled the baby."

Authorities did not identify the caller and removed the person's name from the recording.

Darnell told investigators that he put the snake in a bag inside its aquarium Tuesday night. But when he woke up Wednesday morning, he said, the snake was gone. He found it wrapped around the girl in her crib.

Darnell stabbed the snake repeatedly to free the little girl, but the toddler already had been strangled. The snake also bit her on the head, the station reported.

He called 911 after he pried the python away from the child.

"She got out of the cage last night and got into the baby's crib and strangled her to death," a caller said in the 911 tape.

The pet had already escaped once earlier that night, WTVT said.

Authorities removed the snake from the small house, bordered by cow pastures, Wednesday afternoon after obtaining a search warrant. Once outside the python was placed in a bag, which was put inside a dog crate. It was still alive.

Deputies say Darnell did not have the $100 permit required to own a python in Florida, which is a second-degree misdemeanor.

He has not been charged, but Sumter County Sheriff's Lt. Bobby Caruthers said investigators were looking into whether there was child neglect or if any other laws were broken.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation spokeswoman Joy Hill said the snake will be placed with someone who has a permit, pending an investigation into the girl's death.

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."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.