Pet python kills child
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1999:
ST. LOUIS; ORLANDO–– State intervention came too
late for Jessie Altom, age 3, of Centralia, Illinois, suffocated on
August 29 by his parents’ seven-and-a-half-foot rock python as he
slept on the floor of their home with his aunt and uncle. Jessie
Altom’s parents, Robert and Melissa Altom, ages 26 and 21,
were charged immediately after the boy’s September 2 funeral
with feloniously endangering the life of a child and unlawful possession
of a dangerous animal.
Jessie Altom was killed four days after Florida
Department of Children and Families spokesperson Mary O’Quinn
disclosed that child welfare officials had removed Nickolas
Graham, age 18 months, from his family’s home in Tavares.
O’Quinn did not state a specific reason, but Graham
reportedly suffered severe eye damage on August 4 when attacked
by his father Bill Broyles’ 13-foot python. Broyles was bitten
repeatedly while pulling the python off the boy’s head. Local animal
control authorities killed the python, described as “very
aggressive,” the following morning.
O’Quinn confirmed to Orlando Sentinel reporter Frank
Stanfield that social worker Brenda Letts, 46, hired in March,
had investigated the family before the python incident, and had
resigned afterward. O’Quinn indicated, however, that Letts was
to have been dismissed soon anyway.
ANIMAL PEOPLE received particulars of 12 escapes
and/or attacks by dangerous pet reptiles in 1994; 21 in 1995; 37 in
1996; 68 in 1997; 64 in 1998; and 52 in 1999 as of midSeptember.
Of the 244 total incidents, 60 (25%) involved
pythons, including 26 attacks on humans (50%), resulting in eight
of the 10 reported fatalities.