Florida Couple Found Guilty After Pet Python Strangles Girl

The couple were found guilty of all charges for the death of a toddler.

ByABC News
July 15, 2011, 1:06 PM

July 15, 2011— -- It took the jury less than two hours to find Jaren Hare and her boyfriend Charles Darnel guilty on all charges in the death of Hare's young daughter, who was killed by their pet python.

They were found guilty of third-degree murder, manslaughter and child abuse. Hare's 2-year-old daughter, Shaianna, was killed by the pet Burmese python two years ago, when the snake escaped from its enclosure and strangled the girl in her crib. The snake's tank was only equipped with a quilt for a lid.

The jury rejected the defense's argument that this was simply a terrible accident. The jury foreperson did not want to be identified but offered insight into how the verdict was reached.

"Even under the most remote circumstances, it was possible that the child could be injured. And it was their duty to make sure that there was no possibility that a 2-year-old would be bitten or in any way harmed… We feel extremely upset about having to make this decision, but we believe it was the correct one," the foreperson told the ABC News Tampa Bay affiliate.

After the verdict was read out, Darnell tried to comfort his sobbing girlfriend. The two could face up to 45 years in prison. Darnell will likely face more time than Hare because he has six prior felony convictions. They had been offered a plea deal for 10 years in prison, but turned it down.

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino showed the jury two photos of Shaianna, one where she was a smiling, happy child and another showing her lifeless body with bite marks on her face. He pointed at the couple and argued to the jury that "the snake is not at fault in this case. It's a wild animal. The responsibility for the death of that child is those defendants right there."

Hare's mother testified for the state, saying she warned her daughter about the dangers of having the snake and even offered to buy it and keep it at her home and in a locked enclosure.

Hare's defense attorney, Ismael Solis, argued that Gypsy, the 8-foot-6 inch snake, had been a family pet for five years and had always been docile. "If you have children around the house and it's a venomous snake and you don't put a secure lid on a venomous snake and it gets out and bits one of the kids, you should be punished. But Gypsy was a gentle snake," Solis said during the trial.

Darnell's attorney argued, "He is not guilty of manslaughter. He is not guilty of murder. He's not guilty of neglecting that child. He is guilty of making a stupid decision and having a stupid pet."

But the jury did not buy it. "We also felt that, as the parents and caregivers, their responsibility was to preclude any chance that there could be an incident of any kind, because a 2-year-old could not protect herself," the foreperson told reporters after the trial.

Outside the courtroom, Shaianna's biological father, Joe Gilkerson, said justice was served and that he was bothered by Hare's lack of emotion throughout the four-day trial. "You got some times (in court) where she's got emotions and then some times where she looked like she could care less," Gilkerson told reporters. "I mean, that was our daughter. How can you have an emotionless face?"

Hare and Darnell are the parents of a daughter who was born about a month after Shaianna was strangled to death. It is not clear who is caring for the girl now.

Sentencing is set for August 24.