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Details fuzzy in snake beheading

A Spring Hill woman is accused of biting the python's head off, although it's unclear what exactly happened and why. Deputies haven't yet found the head.

By DUANE BOURNE
Published May 25, 2004

SPRING HILL - Cynthia Christensen, 46, rolled down a Spring Hill street in her motorized wheelchair to join a group of neighbors in conversation Sunday afternoon and innocently asked to hold her friend's pet python. No one expected the request to end with a reptile beheading.

While holding the 11/2-foot python, Christensen blurted out that she was going to bite off its head, authorities said.

When Jennie Smith, the snake's owner, turned around moments later, she saw the reptile dangling from Christensen's hand. Its head was missing.

Neither Smith, who bought the python at a Spring Hill pet store for $26, nor her friend Kenneth Foss, 44, saw the decapitation.

However, Smith's boyfriend, Charles Burge Jr., 23, told authorities he was looking out the window, and the next thing he knew, Christensen had bitten off the snake's head.

To protect his girlfriend, Burge said, he ran outside and grabbed the snake, as blood trickled down Christensen's arm. He then threw the carcass in the woods, according to a sheriff's report.

When Burge asked Christensen why she killed the snake, she didn't answer. But later, when authorities arrived at 3207 Strauss St., Christensen told a deputy that the snake bit her lip as she held it near her mouth.

She later changed her story, saying that after the snake bit her, she tossed it on the ground where it was bitten by a dog, the report said.

Christensen of 7414 Sealawn Drive was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals because of what authorities called the python's cruel and unnecessary death.

According to the report, the bite marks on the snake were not consistent with a dog, and there were no bite marks on Christensen's lips or face. The Sheriff's Office has not yet recovered the snake's head.

"I don't know what happened," Christensen's fiance, James Woodrow, 46, said Monday. He suggested that there was a pit bullterrier in the neighborhood that could have killed the snake

If convicted of the third-degree felony, Christensen could face fines and as much as five years in prison.

In December, Christensen's battery-operated Hoveround wheelchair hopped a 4-inch lip at the edge of her yard and lurched into the road, striking a 1992 Ford van as it drove by.

Weeks later, Christensen was charged with driving under the influence after blood tests showed she was legally impaired while operating her wheelchair. Those charges are pending.

On Monday, Christensen remained in custody at the Hernando County Jail on $10,000 bail.

- Duane Bourne can be reached at 352 754-6114 or at dbourne@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 24, 2004, 20:33:38]


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