Jury seated in ''Python Trial''

4:37 PM, Jul 11, 2011   |    comments
  • An albino Burmese python is removed from a Florida home after it strangled and killed 2-year-old Shaiunna Hare in June, 2009.
    
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Oxford, Florida - He said it was an accident.

Charles Jason Darnell and his girlfriend walked briskly out of the Sumter County Courthouse as the media chased them for a comment.

Photo Gallery: Python kills Florida toddler

"It was an accident," he said, referring to the tragic death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old little girl, Shaiunna, in June 2009 when the family's pet python strangled the toddler.

The eight-and-a-half foot albino Burmese python named Gypsy got out of its tank and wrapped its body around the child's head.

A jury was sworn in before 1 p.m. Monday in this manslaughter case, where the child's mother, 21-year-old Jaren Hare, and her boyfriend, 34-year-old Charles Jason Darnell, are on trial.  

Opening statements will begin on Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m.

The trial is expected to last until the end of the week.

Darnell and Hare are accused of child neglect in the death of little Shaiunna Hare.

Several potential jurors from Sumter County told attorneys today that they "can not sit on this jury" because they "have grandchildren."

"I can't do this," said one man.  "I have grandkids."

"You've already made up your mind?" asked the judge.

"Yes sir," the man answered.

Despite those remarks, a jury was seated.

The mother's boyfriend spoke with detectives when the incident happened and said that the snake was inside the tank when the family went to bed.

However, later that night, Darnell woke up to find Gypsy out of her tank, which had happened many times before in the month that the couple had the reptile.

Darnell said he put the pet inside a mesh bag and then put it back in the tank.

But, the snake got out through a hole in the bag.

The next morning, the mother's boyfriend woke up to a shocking scene.

The snake was wrapped around the toddler's head.

There were bite marks in Shaiunna's forehead, although pythons are not known to be poisonous.

Darnell says he hit the snake with a cleaver and called 911.

Court documents show that Gypsy hadn't been fed in a month, and the only thing keeping the snake inside the tank was a quilt thrown over it.

"The snake's not on trial here," prosecutor Pete Magrino told a reporter.

Hare and Darnell are being tried together. 

Gypsy is currently being held by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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