BUSHNELL — The killing of Shaianna Hare could have been avoided easily, the prosecutor said after a jury on Thursday convicted the 2-year-old's mother and her live-in boyfriend of failing to protect her from a pet python.
"If they just would have housed the snake in a secure enclosure, Shaianna wouldn't be dead," Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino said. "The snake is a wild animal. What do you expect a wild animal to do? It just did what it does naturally."
Jaren Hare, 21, and Charles "Jason" Darnell, 34, face prison sentences of 15 to 45 years for manslaughter, third-degree murder and child neglect.
They had rejected a pretrial plea offer that would have capped any prison sentence at 10 years.
The 8 1/2-foot albino Burmese python, a pet named Gypsy, asphyxiated the toddler in her crib and tried to eat her, according to the deputy chief medical examiner, Wendy Lavezzi. The snake repeatedly escaped its 200-gallon glass aquarium, which had only a safety-pinned quilt as a lid.
The couple failed in their duty to protect the toddler, said the panel's forewoman, a resident of the Villages who spoke with reporters on the conditions that she would not be identified. She said the jury believed that Hare and Darnell were convinced that the python was tame.
"But we also felt that, as the (child's) adult 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," she said.
The 5-year-old snake weighed 13.5 pounds when measured about a month after the attack. A healthy albino Burmese python of that age ought to weigh about 150 pounds, a snake expert testified.
During closing arguments, Magrino pointed out that Jaren Hare's mother, Sheryl Hare, had discussed with her a notorious Internet image of a large Burmese python attempting to devour an alligator in the Everglades.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist.," Magrino said. "If that kind of snake will take down an alligator, it will eat something else, even a small 2-year-old girl."
He ended his argument to jurors by taking the 81/2-foot pink string — which a captive-wildlife investigator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission had used to measure Gypsy's size at a veterinarian's lab — and draping it over the child's crib and the poster-sized picture of the happy child.