BUSHNELL -- A central Florida couple has been convicted in the death of the woman’s toddler, who was strangled in her crib by a pet python.
A Sumter County jury found 21-year-old mother Jaren Hare and her live-in boyfriend, 34-year-old Charles “Jason” Darnell, guilty Thursday of manslaughter, third-degree murder and child neglect. They each face 35 years in prison. Both previously rejected plea agreements for 10 years in prison.
Authorities say an 8-foot-6-inch albino Burmese python wrapped itself around 2-year-old Shianna Hare’s head on July 1, 2009. Testimony revealed the snake had not been fed for a month before the attack.
Defense attorneys argued that the death was an accident, and there was no way to know that the tame pet would kill a child.
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Panel meets on variety of state university issues
TALLAHASSEE -- A council created to help identify unmet needs and resolve disputes over new degree programs in Florida’s higher education system is looking at possible changes to the Bright Futures program.
The Higher Education Coordinating Council on Thursday discussed creating incentives for students to finish their degree quicker, which is less costly to the system. Students can currently get Bright Futures for 12 credit hours while 15 hours is considered a full load.
The council did not address the possibility of creating a 12th public university in the state to alleviate some of the enrollment pressures on the state’s existing 11 public universities, deciding instead to leave those talks to the Board of Governors. More than 70,000 additional students have squeezed into Florida’s public universities over the past decade.
Man who pointed gun at police dies in hospital
TAMPA -- Officials say a Tampa man who shot himself and pointed his gun at police officers earlier this week has died.
Tampa police say 74-year-old Umberto Ferrara, who had been shot twice, died Thursday at St. Joseph’s Hospital.
Police say Ferrara called 911 early Tuesday morning, claiming that he was armed and planning to shoot himself. Officers arriving on the scene reported hearing gunshots before finding Ferrara sitting on a porch, bleeding from a head wound and firing a gun.
Police say Officer Dan Evers shot at Ferrara when the man pointed a gun at him, but it wasn’t clear if the officer hit Ferrara.
Donors boost Anthony’s commissary account
ORLANDO -- Casey Anthony has gotten a boost in her jailhouse commissary account since her acquittal last week on charges that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter.
Records released Thursday show Anthony’s commissary account has gone from around $264 just before the jury verdict to more than $470 as of Thursday.
Supporters from as far away as Canada have sent in checks and money orders to the Orange County Jail, where Anthony is scheduled to be released on Sunday.
Anthony was found guilty of four counts of lying to police, but with time served and good behavior credits, she won’t serve out her four-year sentence.
Man dies guiding his wife into parking spot
ORLANDO -- Authorities say an elderly central Florida man was killed while trying to guide his wife into a parking spot.
The Florida Highway Patrol reports that 91-year-old Fedico Santiago was directing his wife, 58-year-old Alba Jimenez, into a space at the College Park Towers parking lot on Thursday. As Jimenez was pulling in, she suddenly accelerated and hitting Santiago.
FHP is investigating.
Woman dies following SUV’s crash with bus
ORLANDO -- Authorities say a woman died following a crash with a central Florida commuter bus.
The Florida Highway Patrol reported Thursday that 45-year-old Cheryl Coffie died at an Orlando hospital.
FHP says Coffie was driving an SUV Wednesday that rear-ended a Lynx bus, which had stopped to offload passengers. Two of Coffie’s passengers were transported to a different hospital. At least three bus passengers also were injured.
Earlier Wednesday, FHP says nine people were injured in an unrelated crash when a car rear-ended Lynx bus.
-- Herald wire services