Snake that killed N.B. brothers was kept in apartment where they slept: RCMP
Published Tuesday, August 6, 2013 7:57AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, August 6, 2013 10:34PM EDT
The large python that is believed to have strangled two young New Brunswick brothers while they slept was being held in the apartment where the boys were sleeping, not in the exotic pet store below, police said Tuesday.
RCMP Sgt. Alain Tremblay told reporters during a news conference that a criminal investigation has been launched into the deaths of Noah Barthe, 4, and Connor Barthe, 6, who were found dead early Monday morning.
Earlier, it was reported that the snake was held in the exotic pet store below the apartment where the boys were found. But Tremblay said Tuesday that the snake was being held in the upstairs apartment.
Authorities believe the snake escaped its enclosure, entered the building's ventilation system and fell through the ceiling into the living room where the brothers were sleeping.
Investigators are treating the apartment and Reptile Ocean store, located in Campbellton, as a crime scene, Tremblay said.
Tremblay would not comment on whether the owner of the store, Jean-Claude Savoie, had the right to hold the snake -- which was identified as an African rock python -- citing the ongoing investigation.
"The investigator is still looking into whether he had all the rights to keep such (an) animal," Tremblay said. "There are a lot of things to look at. We're just at the first step of this investigation."
He said that police will soon be speaking with Savoie.
But the New Brunswick government said in a statement that Savoie did not have the required permit to house the python.
The province requires a special permit for the African rock python, and the New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources said the snake is generally only permitted in accredited zoos.
Steve Benteau, a spokesperson for the department, said the province wasn't aware the snake was being kept at the apartment.
Autopsies on the bodies of the boys were scheduled to take place Tuesday in Saint John.
Tremblay said the results of the autopsies will confirm the causes of death.
Police have yet to say if any charges will be laid in connection with the deaths, which experts have described as extremely rare.
"I have 23 years of service, and I've never been involved in such a terrible story,” Tremblay said.
Brothers' last day
Family members of the brothers told reporters that the boys had a love for life and spent their last day swimming, playing and enjoying a barbecue.
"They had a super day," the boys' uncle, Dave Rose, said. He added that the boys lived life "to the max" and were excited to begin school in September.
"That's the type of life they had and that's what we're going to try and remember," he said.
Rose also said the boys visited an animal farm before they died, a revelation that left one reptile expert wondering if the python was attracted to the smell of prey.
Paul (Little Ray) Goulet, founder and co-owner of Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo in Ottawa, told The Canadian Press that if the boys smelled like farm animals, the snake may have mistaken them for food.
"If a snake sees an animal moving, giving off heat and smells like a goat, what is it? It's a goat," he said.
Tremblay said the bodies of the two boys were discovered shortly after 6:30 a.m. Monday by Savoie, who lives in the apartment with his son.
The victims were reportedly friends with Savoie's son.
Savoie told investigators he managed to trap the snake -- which police said weighed approximately 100 pounds -- in a cage before alerting authorities. The snake was later euthanized by a veterinarian in Fredericton.
Savoie told CTV Atlantic that he had the python for more than a decade and it was rarely handled during that time.
Most provinces do not have laws controlling exotic animals; rather, owners are subject to whatever city bylaws are in place where they live.
Community shocked, angry
The deaths of the boys have left the community in Campbellton shaken.
Another of the boys' uncles, Terry Rose, told reporters that he still can't believe what happened.
"We would never expect something like this to happen here in Canada," he said.
Resident Stephanie Bernatchez said she shares a mutual friend with the mother of the two victims.
"They were two kids who were very well brought up," Bernatchez said. "Kind, polite -- they loved being together and playing together. They were sociable, played well with other kids."
Resident Joanne Legacy said there should be stricter regulations for the pet store.
"To me, kids shouldn't be in there. It should be (for) people 19 and over," she said.
Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau said the deaths of the two boys cannot be in vain and that the city will re-examine its animal bylaws.
A fundraiser has been organized to help the mother of the two boys with the cost of the funerals.
With files from CTV Atlantic and The Canadian Press