Police: Charges Expected Against Python Owner in Florida Toddler's Strangling Death

Police are expected to bring charges against the owner of a pet python that strangled a 2-year-old Florida girl in her crib, killing her.

A Sumter County Sheriffs employee, who is not authorized to speak about the case, told FOXNews.com that charges are coming but wouldn't elaborate because investigators still are working on the specifics. The charges likely won't be filed on Thursday.

Shaiunna Hare died early Wednesday morning after being attacked by the snake, which belonged to her mother's boyfriend and escaped from its aquarium, deputies said.

The little girl was killed by the 8-foot, 5-inch Burmese python as she slept after it got out of its tank in another room of the house, according to Sumter County Sheriffs Lt. Bobby Caruthers.

An autopsy released Thursday determined that the child died by asphyxiation.

The aquarium didn't have a lock as required by law, Caruthers told FOX News Thursday.

Jaren Ashley Hare, 21, and Shaiunna shared the central Florida home with Hare's boyfriend, 32-year-old Charles Jason Darnell, and his children.

Caruthers told FOX that Darnell may face charges for not having a permit for the python. Deputies say Darnell did not have the $100 permit required to own a python in Florida, which is a second-degree misdemeanor.

He also could be charged with child endangerment, child neglect or even manslaughter or homicide, according to Caruthers.

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.

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

Click to hear the 911 call.

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

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

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

Two other children also were in the house at the time but were not hurt, according to WTVT.

The pet already had escaped once earlier that night, Caruthers told FOX News.

Authorities removed the snake Wednesday from the small house, bordered by cow pastures, 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.

Hare and Darnell were taken to the police station for questioning.

"They are very distraught," Caruthers told WTVT, adding that the two have been "very cooperative."

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.

Hill said her department is unaware of a non-venomous snake ever before killing a human in Florida.

"This could be a first for the state," she told the station.

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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FOXNews.com's Catherine Donaldson-Evans and The Associated Press contributed to this report.