OXFORD, Fla. (AP) - Investigative documents show that a pet python that strangled a Florida toddler had not been fed in a month and had escaped its tank 10 times since its last meal, a newspaper reported Saturday.
An Orlando Sentinel review of investigative documents showed that the 8-foot-6-inch albino Burmese python named Gypsy was kept in violation of wildlife rules, and that the child's mother and mother's boyfriend could not afford to feed it.
The python escaped its terrarium July 1, 2009, and attacked 2-year-old Shaianna Hare in her crib in Oxford, about 60 miles northwest of Orlando.
Jaren Hare, 21, and her 33-year-old boyfriend, Jason Darnell, face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of manslaughter or third-degree murder. They also are charged with child abuse.
The python had slipped out of its 150-gallon tank with only a quilt as a lid twice that day before attacking Shaianna, investigators said.
The emaciated snake weighed less than 13 pounds, at least half what healthy pythons that size should weigh, Andrew Wyatt, president of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers, told the newspaper.
"You keep it hungry and don't secure it, you're asking for trouble," Wyatt said.
According to a death investigation by the Department of Children and Families, Jaren Hare's mother, Sheryl, was concerned about her daughter's ability to care for the python and a smaller snake.
Sheryl Hare told a DCF investigator that a week before the attack, she offered to buy rats for the snakes because the couple had neither jobs nor money. She said she also offered to get sealed containers for the snakes and to keep the snakes at her home.
Both offers were rejected, she told investigators.
According to reports from the Sumter County Sheriff's Office and DCF, Shaianna and two older children in the home regularly handled the python with adult supervision.
The couple told sheriff's detectives that Gypsy was tame and never coiled around the children as they carried it draped around their necks.
Darnell recalled how the python snatched a roadkill squirrel from his hand about a month before the attack.
"She was coming up due (for a feeding)," Darnell told sheriff's detectives. "But I don't think hunger would have been the motive. ... There's no way that she could possibly in her mind think that she could eat that baby."
Darnell told detectives that the snake was in its tank when he went to bed around 11:30 p.m. An hour later, while walking to the bathroom, he found the python in the hallway.
He said he stuffed the snake in a mesh bag and put it in its tank.
Darnell told investigators that at 9:30 the next morning, he found the snake coiled around Shaianna's head, its fangs sunk into her forehead.
Darnell stabbed the snake when he found it wrapped around the toddler. The python has recovered and is being held by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
A new state law passed last year made it illegal for individuals to own Burmese pythons and six other large, exotic reptile species. Some such reptiles have escaped or been set loose by their owners, which threatens Florida's ecology because they can prey almost unchecked on native birds and other animals.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)