On July 2, 2009, Charles “Jason” Darnell checked on the family’s pet Burmese Python snake after waking for the day. The snake was not inside its cage. Jason feared the worst as he searched the home for the Python. His worst nightmare came true when he found the Python wrapped around his girlfriend’s daughter’s neck.
Jason grabbed a large knife and stabbed the snake several times, forcing it to release the girl’s neck. Sadly, it was too late: The 8-foot-long, 13-pound Python had str*angled 2-year-old Shianna Hare to de*ath.
As the investigation began, police learned the Python had not been fed in over a month. The snake wasn’t secure in its cage, having only a quilt covering its top. According to WebMD, a snake enclosure should “have secure lid latches or clips to prevent the snake from escaping.”
Couple Charged With Third-Degree Murder
With this information, police arrested Jason and Shianna’s mother, 21-year-old Jaren Hare.
The Medical Examiner testified during the couple’s trial that the snake, named Gypsy, was severely underweight and had bitten the girl on the face, head, abdomen, hands and arms and wrapped itself around her neck because it was trying to eat her. He testified that the snake should’ve weighed approximately 150 pounds.
Hare’s mother testified that she offered to keep the snake at her home in an enclosure and had offered to buy rats for the snake, although both offers were rejected.
National Geographic says that Burlinese pythons can grow to be up to 23 feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds.
Hare, Darnell Sentenced to Prison
After rejecting plea deals that would have sentenced them to 10 years in prison, Hare and Darnell were convicted by a Sumnter County jury of manslaughter and child neglect. although they faced 35 years in prison, each received a 12-year prison sentence.
After the verdict was read, the jury foreman stated: “But we also felt that, as the adult parents and caregivers, their responsibility was to preclude any chance that there could be an incident of any kind (with the snake) because the 2-year-old could not protect herself.”
Darnell was released in January 2021 and Hare in September of the year. Both remain on supervised probation until 2026. The couple planned to marry after their prison release.
Shaianna’s Father Filed Lawsuit Against Children’s Service Agency
Shianna’s father, Joey Gilkerson, filed a lawsuit against the county seeking an undisclosed sum of money after he said DCF workers failed to protect his daughter. According to Gilkerson, workers knew the snake lived in the home -and about Hare and Darnell’s love for dr*ugs, namely cocaine and prescription pills. Gilkerson lived in Ohio at the time of Shianna’s de*ath -and told reporters that he never liked the idea of the snake in the home with his daughter.
According to a report from the agency, Shianna said she had no plans to stop using dr*ugs, although she and Darnell signed a safety plan agreeing they would not use dr*ugs in the toddler’s presence. The safety plan did not mention the snake, although Gilkerson alleged they saw the enclosure without a lid during visits to the home.
Social workers did not follow up at the home after the couple signed the safety plan.