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Florida Couple Stands Trial After Starving Python Kills 2-Year-Old Girl


Jul. 12 2011, Published 9:30 a.m. ET

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by Staff

First Casey Anthony – now, another trial attracting national attention is getting underway in Florida.

One day after the jury was sworn in, opening statements begin Tuesday morning in Sumter County in the trial of a couple whose starving python strangled a 2-year-old girl in Oxford, Fla.

Charles Jason Darnell, 34, and his girlfriend Jaren Hare, 21, are standing trial together on charges of manslaughter and child neglect in connection with the little girl’s death.

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The couple’s 8 1/2-foot-long albino Burmese python, Gypsy, escaped in the summer of 2009 out of its glass terrarium that only had a quilt as a lid. The serpent slithered into the crib of Jaren’s daughter Shaianna and strangled the toddler.

The fangs of the snake were in the toddler's forehead.

Darnell, who had plans to adopt the little girl, hit the snake with a cleaver and called 911.

According to police, the python, bought at a flea market for $200, hadn't eaten in a month and weighed in at a sickly 13.5 pounds after the attack.

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The snake is being held at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and will not appear in court.

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino decided that photos of the snake will have to suffice for jurors.   "I don't want a circus," said Magrino, "The snake's not on trial here." Opening statements are expected to last throughout the week.

The couple could get 35 years in prison each if convicted of all charges.



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