By Millard K. Ives, Daily Commercial
A a couple was sentenced today to 12 years each in prison in the death of her two-year-old child, Shaianna Hare, who was strangled by the couple's pet Burmese python in their Oxford home.
Jaren Hare, 21, and her former live-in boyfriend, Charles "Jason" Darnell, 34, had been convicted in July by a Sumter County jury on third-degree murder, manslaughter and child neglect and had faced up to 45 years in prison.
In their arguments for a lighter sentence, lawyers for the defendants called the July 1, 2009 death a horrible accident and tagged the snake docile and a family pet with which children in the couple's home regularly played.
The Attorney Ismael Solis had compared it to a pit bull house pet that "just went crazy" when the snake crawled out of its shabby aquarium, slithered down the hallway and climbed into Shaianna crib, wrapped around the child's body and strangled her.
The snake apparently tried to ingest the child.
But Judge William Hallman said unlike domestic animals, the couple knew the snake was a wild animal that ate small mammals, considering Darnell regularly fed it road kill squirrels.
Hallman compared the snake to a pet alligator.
"This child was a small mammal which is on the menu for a wild animal," said Hallman before he sentenced the couple.
Prosecutor Pete Magrino had argued the snake had escaped its aquarium a number of times, including hours before it was found wrapped around the lifeless body of Shaianna.
The couple were given 12 years on the manslaughter charge and five years probation on the neglect charge. The murder conviction was dropped since defendants can't serve two convictions on killing the same person.
The couple had rejected a plea deal for 10 years in prison before the August trial.
Both the couple's lawyers cited the not guilty verdict in the Casey Anthony case, reached one week before Darnell and Hare were found guilty, as helping to lead to the jury finding the defendants guilty and a harsher punishment.