Excerpts from Chris Morris—Legislature Bureau—Nov. 9, 2016

Jury begins deliberations in python trial

Campbellton- The jury has begun deliberations in the criminal negligence trial arising from the deaths of 2 little boys who were killed by what was described as a “mean” python that escaped its enclosure.

After a week of testimony at a courthouse in Campbellton,Jean-Claude Savoie should know soon whether he has been found guilty or not guilty of criminal negligence causing the deaths of brothers Connor Barthe,6 and Noah Barthe,4 on Aug. 5, 2013.

Justice Fred Ferguson,the presiding judge at the Court of Queen’s Bench trial,described the complexities of the law surrounding the charge of criminal negligence causing death in his final instructions to the jury on Wednesday morning.

He made it clear to jurors that to find Savoie guilty,they must agree that his conduct showed “a marked and substantial departure from what a reasonably prudent person would do in the same circumstances.”

Ferguson also stressed the importance of “reasonable doubt” telling jurors that while there cannot be absolute certainty,it is not enough for them to decide Savoie is probably guilty.

The judge also is providing a review of the evidence in the tragic case in which the 2 boys were killed by an aggressive African rock python that crawled out of its pen in Savoie’s apartment through a ceiling air vent. The snake then fell through the ceiling above where the boys were sleeping on  a mattress on the living room floor.

The almost 4 meter long snake used its coils to constrict the children,asphyxiating them.

 

Josie

 

 

 

Excerpts from Chris MorrisLegislature Bureau—Nov. 9, 2016

CAMPBELLTON- Just a couple of screws in  a vent cover could have saved 2 little boys who were killed by an escaped snake, a jury was told as the prosecution argued for a guilty verdict in the criminal negligence trial arising from their tragic deaths.

Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel and defense lawyer Les Matchim concluded their summations on Tuesday and the case is expected to go to the jury on Wednesday following Justice Fred Ferguson’s instructions.

“It wouldn’t have taken a lot of work,”Roussel aid,holding the vent cover at the trial of Jean-Claude Savoie.

“He just had to screw it in.”

Savoie is charged with criminal negligence causing the deaths of brothers Connor,6,and Noah Barthe,.4,.on Aug. 5,2013,when an African rock python escaped its pen in Savoie’s apartment by crawling through an open air duct in its enclosure.

Witnesses have told  the trial the cover to the ceiling duct often was on the floor of the snake’s pen. The vent cover had 4 small holes where it could be secured in place with screws,but it wasn’t.

“It was a dangerous place to live in that apartment ,”Roussel said,adding that Savoie did not take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of people visiting his home,especially the Barthe brothers.

Savoie wiped away tears as his lawyer,Les Matchim, urged the jury to find his client not guilty. Matchim said Savoie is a “good father” to his own little boy and he cared deeply about the 2 brothers who died in the snake attack in his apartment.

“He is not someone who would be reckless and cavalier with their lives,”the defense lawyer said.

Matchim said Savoie made a grave mistake,one he must live with”for the rest of his life.”

But Matchim insisted that Savoie never showed the kind of wanton recklessness and disregard for safety that characterize criminal negligence.

“Would he put hi sown safety ad that of his son at risk”Matchim asked.

Savoie’s 3 year old son was in a separate room during the 2013 snake attack and was not hurt.

Referring to key testimony that Savoie  had once seen the python “halfway out” of the ventilation pipe but failed to take corrective action,Matchim said the incident served as proof to Savoie that the 4 meter snake could not fit completely through the pipe.

Matchim said Savoie performed a “service” to the federal government by taking in the snake,but he was never compensated for caring for the animal.

 

More updates to follow once available.

 

Josie

Excerpt from a news article by Chris  MorrisLegislature Bureau–Nov. 8,2016

Snake expert testifies in ongoing trial

CAMPBELLTON- A snake expert testifying for the defense at the Campbellton python trial says there’s “no way in hell” he would have thought a large African rock python could have squeezed through the ventilation pipe it used to escape and kill two little boys.

Eugene Bessette, a snake farmer in Archer,Florida,was the only witness for the defense on Monday which means Jean-Claude Savoie ,the man accused of criminal negligence causing the deaths of brothers Connor and Noah Barthe,will not be testifying.

Bessette will return to the stand on Tuesday for possible cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel . That will be the end of testimony since both the Crown and the defense will have called all of their witnesses.

The jury likely will begin deliberations on Wednesday,following closing arguments and the charge by trial judge,Justice Fred Ferguson.

The defense and the prosecution presented dueling snake experts on Monday,with Bessette supporting the defense position that Savoie  did not bother fixing an open ventilation duct in the python ‘s enclosure because he assumed,like others,the snake would not fit through the hole and the pipe.

“Based on what I know,I would have assumed there is no way in hell that snake could have got through that pipe,”Bessette told the jury.

“I wouldn’t have been worried.But I would have been wrong.”

Bessette said he was “shocked and astounded’ when he looked at photos of the evidence,including the roughly four-inch wide ventilation pipe and the snake,which measured 4.25 inches in diameter at its widest point,with a head that was 2.5 inches wide.

“I am amazed a snake that big got through that hole,but it did.”said Bessette who raises and sells thousands of pythons and other snakes at his Florida operation.

“That was a big snake. that was a small hole.”

Savoie’s lawyer,Les Matchim,presented the defense theory to the jury on Monday,focusing on the issue of predictability in the criminal negligence case. Matchim

said the negligence accusation boils down to whether Savoie’s failure to cover the open ventilation duct in the snake’s enclosure constitutes criminal negligence.

“Mr. Savoie came to the determination that the snake could never escape. It just didn’t fit through the pipe.”he sid.

“Mr.Savoie was wrong ,but according to the law, being wrong isn’t necessarily criminal negligence.”

 

Court resumes on Wed., Nov. 9.2016.

Josie

 

 

 

 

 

From a news article by Chris Morris–Legislature Bureau– Nov. 5,2016

Snake trial will proceed,but with 11 jurors

CAMPBELLTON- After a long delay, the criminal negligence trial arising from the deaths of two boys in a snake attack resumed on Friday,but with 11 jurors instead of 12.

Justice Fred Ferguson told the court that one of the jurors was “relieved of her duties” and discharged with the agreement of both prosecution and defence lawyers.

Ferguson told the remaining jurors that despite losing a day of evidence on Friday,he is confident the case will conclude on Wednesday after closing arguments by lawyers and his own charge to the jury.

It then will be up to the jurors to decide whether Jean-Claude Savoie is guilty or not guilty of criminal negligence in the deaths of brothers,Connor,6,and Noah Barthe,4,who were killed by a python on Aug. 5,2013.

Crown prosecutors and the defence agreed to two admissions of fact on Friday,admissions that will allow the trial to move ahead with fewer witnesses.

The first,key admission is agreement on both sides that the African rock python did escape from its enclosure in Savoie’s apartment”through a ventilation pipe”in the ceiling of the pen.

The agreement says the snake then got access to the living room of the apartment where the little boys were sleeping on a  mattress on the floor”attacked both and caused their deaths by asphyxiation.”

This admission means Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel does not have to prove the snake travelled through the air duct,which,according to witnesses,often was open and exposed because of a loose cover.

The defence is conceding that is how the snake escaped and killed the brothers.

In the second statement read in court.both sides agree that in 2002, the Canadian Wildfire Service took into its custody a juvenile African rock python which they subsequently asked Savoie to care for in Campbellton. “At that time,destroying a seized animal was a last resort ,”the statement says.

The wildlife service said there was no funding given to Savoie for care and maintenance of the snake,identified as the one that killed the boys.

Roussel was supposed to conclude his case on Friday but the judge decided to give everyone a break and ended proceedings at lunch.

Roussel now is expected to call his last witness on Monday. The witness,Bob Johnson,former curator of reptiles and amphibians at the Toronto Zoo,is an expert in snake behaviour.

During the week,Roussel presented the Crown’s theory of what happened on Aug. 5,2013,when an African rock python escaped its enclosures in Savoie’s second floor apartment located on Pleasant Street in Campbellton.

The apartment was located above Savoie’s now-closed exotic pet business,called Reptile Ocean.

Savoie kept the snake,and a crocodile,in separate enclosures in the living quarters of the building.

It meant the python was just a few metres away from where brothers Connor,6, and four-year-old Noah Barthe  were sleeping on the living room floor.

Pathologist Dr. Marek Godlewski told the court the boys’ bodies were covered with many puncture wounds that matched the tooth pattern of the python,which is non-venomous but bites prey when constrictng.

“The pattern on the wounds was consistent with the pattern of the teeth.”Godlewski told the jury.

He said the boys had been asphyxiated and squeezed so tight,the skin of one of the boys got a “lace-like” pattern from the snake. there also were scaly bits of snake skin found on one of the boys.

Savoie has been charged with criminal negligence causing the deaths of the boys. He has pleaded not guilty.

Once the Crown concludes its case, the defence will begin its arguments.

 

 

Court resumes on Monday—Nove. 7,2016

 

Josie

 

 

 

 

News article from Chris MorrisLegislative Bureau– Nov. 3, 2016

Update : Pathologist tells court boys killed by asphyxiation in snake attack 

CAMPBELLTON–The bodies of the 2 little boys killed in a snake attack in Campbellton had multiple punctures,abrasions and internal bleeding caused by constriction of their chests and necks, a pathologist said Thursday.

One of the boys was squeezed so tight,the snake’s skin left a lace-like pattern on the child’s flesh,Dr. Mark Godlewski of St. John told the criminal negligence trial arising from the deaths of the brothers.

Godlewski said he found many puncture wounds on the bodies of Connor Barthe,6,and Noah Barthe,4, when he performed autopsies on Aug. 6,2013,the day after they were found dead in an  apt above an exotic pet business in Campbellton.

The pathologist was sent the head of the African rock python that had escaped its enclosure in the apartment and was later euthanized. He compared the puncture marks with the snake’s teeth and said they matched.

‘The pattern on the wounds was consistent with the pattern of the teeth,’ Godlewski told the jury.

Jean-Claude Savoie, the owner of the now-closed pet business called Reptile Ocean,has been charged with criminal negligence causing death. He has pleaded not guilty.

Godlewski said paleness around the mouths of the 2 boys indicated asphyxia due to neck strangulation and what he called “manual asphyxiation” caused by consistent pressure on the chest that prevented breathing. “Such as coiling around the body?”,asked Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel. 

“Yes,”the pathologist said.

The African rock python is a non-venomous constrictor known for its ill-temper.

Another witness on Thursday discussed the size of the rock python in question,disclosing that it was not as large as some witnesses thought.

As well,Dr. James Goltz,the provincial veterinary pathologist who conducted the necropsy on the snake,said it had not been fed for at least 24 hours.

Some police witnesses and a former employee of the pet store have told the court the snake was massive at least 5 metres long and more than 100 lbs.

In fact,Goltz said it was 3.8 metres or 12 ft,4 in in length with a diameter of 4.25 inches (11 centimeters).

“It weighed 53 lbs(24kgs), the veterinarian said.

Goltz told the court that apart from some blood in its digestive tract,the snake had not eaten anything for some time,at least 24 hours.

He also said that the reptiles are capable of reducing the diameter of their bodies as they squeeze through tight spots such as holes or screwed.

Ocean Eagles, a former employee at the Reptile Ocean,told the court at Wednesday. She had not been overly worried about a loose cover on a vent in the snake’s enclosure because she assumed the snake was  too large to fit through the opening.

A frequent visitor to the exotic pet business also testified on Thursday and told the court the cover to a vent in the snake’s enclosure was off and lying on the floor just days before the boys died.

John O’Brien, the boyfriend of Mandy Trecartin,the mother of the 2 boys,said he often visited the pet store because Trecartin was a good friend of Savoie and his 3 year old son.

O’Brien told the court he doesn’t think the cap was ever covering,the vent during his visits, but he is only sure that he noticed it on 1 visit,about a week before the tragedy.

“The cap was not where it should have been”,O’Brien told the jury under questioning by Roussel.

“It was on the floor(of the snake enclosure).”

The jury has been told that the boys died while on a sleepover at Savoie’s apartment above the pet business. A large African rock python escaped its pen in the apt through an open vent and fell through the ceiling into the room where the boys were sleeping.

O’Brien said he checked on the boys after a panicky Savoie told Trecartin her boys were dead early on the morning of August 5,2013.

He said he went into the apt and checked for pules,but it was too late.

“They were blue’,he said.

Another witness on Thursday,Bernard Gallant,a reptile expert at the Magnetic Hill Zoo ,told the court officials with the Canadian Wildlife Service first offered the python to the zoo.

He said the zoo did not have room,but thought Savoie might be able to take it in Campbellton.

“We would have had to put it don,”Gallant said.’We didn’t have the enclosure for it.”

Thursday was day 4 of the criminal negligence trial among from the deaths of the boys Roussel is expected to wrap up the prosecution case on Friday.

Trecartin told the court Wednesday she assumed her boys were safe when she agreed to let them sleepover at the Savoie apt. Trecartin said she learned her boys were dead at around 6 : 50 on the morning of Aug. 5,2013.When Savoie burst through the front door of her house,which was near the pet store,and yelled towards her upstairs bedroom. “Oh my God!Oh my God!” Your 2 kids are dead,”she told the court. Trecartin said she never once thought her children would be in danger. She said they had slept over at Savoie ‘s about 10x prior to the tragedy. The Barthe boys were friends with Savoie’s little boy and Trecartin assigned the exotic pet store owner had taken precautions to keep the children safe.

 

Will keep you posted of any other news!

Josie

 

 

 

 

 

From Kevin Bissett,The Canadian Press—Nov. 2,2016

Python had escaped in weeks before brothers’deaths,negligence trial told

 

CAMPBELLTON,NB–The python that killed 2 boys had previously escaped its enclosure weeks before the tragedy, a New Brunswick court heard Wed.

Ocean Eagles,a volunteer at Jean-Claude Savoie’s reptile store,told Savoie’s criminal negligence trial in Campbellton that he told her the snake had escaped about 2 and a half weeks earlier through a ventilation duct . It soon escaped again and killed Noah Barthe,4 and Connor Barthe,6, in 2013. “He told me he was sitting down in his living room and he looked up and the snake was halfway out”,Eagles testified.

Eagles said she placed a cover over the ventilation duct,but warned Savoie,it needed to be screwed on. She said she often cared for the “dangerous” snake and fed it rabbits,but was very cautious.

“I knew what the snake was capable of. It can overtake any man,”she said.

The 2 boys died when Savoie’s 45-kg African rock python fell into the room where they slept.It’s believed the snake traveled through the ventilation duct.

Under cross-examination by defense lawyer Leslie Matchim Eagles said the snake appeared about 2 inches larger in diameter than the duct and she never thought it could escape through it.

“I would never think so when you look at the size of the snake. It would never cross my mind,”she said.

Savoie,who now lives near Montreal,owned the pet store below his apartment at the time.He wept Wednesday as the boys’ mother Mandy Trecartin,talked about her 2 sons.

She said she dropped them off for a sleepover that night certain they were in good hands.

“I felt they would be as safe with him as they would be with me,” Trecartin testified.

Trecartin says they lived behind Savoie’s apartment, and her sons were best friends with Savoie’s son. She says Savoie was a good friend,although she hasn’t seen him since Aug. 4, 2013.

They had spent that day with the boys at a farm owned by Savoie’s father,where  the boys played with a lot of animals.

That evening she and her boyfriend dropped the kids at Savoie’s apartment for a sleepover,something they often did.

At 6:49 the next morning, she heard pounding on her door,and heard Savoie saying”Oh my God, your 2 kids are dead.”

She said her boyfriend went next door with Savoie,and when he came back he told her”I’s true. It’s a fucking nightmare but it’s true.”

Also Wednesday, one of the 1st officers to arrive at the scene said he was surpried such a large snake could move so quickly. But RCMP Const. Eric Maillet said Savoie was able to recapture the python.

“The snake coiled around his arm”,Maillet said.

Savoie put the snake in its enclosure,where it could be seen through a large floor to ceiling window,he said.

“The snake started hissing  at us and lunging and hitting the window with its face.”

The python appeared to be trying to escape its enclosure again,said Maillet,who was concerned the snake wanted to feed and was trying to get back to the living room where the  bodies of the boys were.

“It was going straight up in the air towards the vent opening,she said.He said he was quite surprised how the snake was able to stand straight up – almost reaching the vent opening.

“I didn’t expect such a large reptile to be able to do that.”

He said the snake was put in a garbage bin and removed from the building.

 

 

—Trial resumes tomorrow—Nov. 3,2016

Josie

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Morris of the newspaper —Legislature Bureau had  news updates for today–Nov.1,2016 being Day 1 of the trial of the 2 boys Connor and Noah Barthe being killed by a python. Jury pool consisted of 4 men and 8 women,plus 2 alternates. Jean-Claude Savoie faces  a charge of criminal negligence. This trial is expected to provide answers as to what exactly happened that night as well as how the snake escaped and how the boys were killed. It is expected to last 2 weeks. Judge Fred Ferguson , the presiding judge at the Court of Queen’s Bench,delived jury instructions today rminding them that Savoie is presumed innocent until and unless the prosecutions case is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

1st update consisted of how aggressive the python was and the description of the puncture marks and wounds inflicted by the python on the 2 boys.This is based from first responders who were called to the scene by Savoie who called up 911 that evening. Crown prosecutor Pierre Roussel presented his theory to the jury that Savoie  knew that there was an escape route for the python from its enclosure into the apartment where Savoie lived above his exotic pet store ,Reptile Ocean. An employee who will later testify in court that he warned Savoie about the vent cover to an air duct in the snake’s enclosure was often loose and sometimes constantly off. This would lead to the snake escaping  through the vent and when the ceiling came down,the snake fell through and then it was very close to the boys and subsequently caused their deaths. Between 12-13 witnesses will be called including a former employee who told Savoie a few weeks before the incident that she had seen the snake trying to escape throught the vent. Savoie reportedly told her one evening a few weeks prior to the incident that he was in the living room where he woke up and saw the snake dangling in front of him. He then was able to get th snake back into its enclosure but he still did not fix the vent cover.

Roussel told the court that the boys’ mother Mandy Trecartin will testify as to what her expectations were of Savoie when she allowed the 2 boys to have a sleepover at Savoie’s apt above the reptile store on Aug. 4,2013. following a trip to the Savoie family farm.

The Crown’s theory of criminal negligence stems from the notion that Savoie was in a breach of duty to taking care of the 2 boys when they were left with him by their mother.Savoie was aware of the nature and behavior of the African rock python which was reportedly pretty aggressive and that special measures had to be used for it.

Savoie,who now lives in Montreal,Quebec was present in court today and sat quietly through Roussel’s presentation. Roussel said that a DNA report will show the snake’s DNA which was found on the 2 boys as well as the 2 boys’ respective DNAs on the snake. The snake was later euthanized by a veterinarian.

Josie