Jury finds couple guilty in python strangulation of child

- SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - A Sumter County jury has found Jaren Hare and her boyfriend Charles Darnell guilty of third-degree murder, manslaughter and child abuse in the death of a 2-year-old strangled by a pet python.

It took the six-person jury less than two hours to reach a decision.

During closing arguments Thursday morning, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino once again referred to Gypsy the Burmese python only as the "instrument of death."

"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," said Magrino as he pointed toward the couple.

Magrino also showed the jury two pictures. One of Shaianna as a happy child. The other was of her lifeless body with bite marks on her face.

On July 1, 2009, investigators say the python escaped from its tank and strangled the little girl.

Authorities found the tank secured only by a quilt fastened with baby pins.

The defense argued all week that the snake was a family pet that had always been docile. Darnell's attorney said he had no idea the python would attack.

"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," said defense attorney Rhiannon Arnold.

Hare's attorney followed by saying the python had been a family pet for five years.

"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 bites one of the kids, you should be punished. But Gypsy was a gentle snake," said defense attorney Ismael Solis.