The former owner of a Campbellton, N.B., pet store has been charged with criminal negligence causing death in connection with the 2013 asphyxiations of young brothers in the man's apartment after a python escaped from its enclosure.

Jean-Claude Savoie, 38, was arrested near Montreal by New Brunswick RCMP in February, and charged Monday in Campbellton provincial court, according to a police release.

Connor Barthe, 6, and Noah Barthe, 4, were killed by the African rock python, which had escaped from Reptile Ocean, while they were sleeping.

"This was a unique case in Canada and required consultation with experts familiar with African rock pythons,” said ConstJullie Rogers-Marsh.

β€œIn addition, as is common in major investigations, a thorough review was conducted of the evidence and investigational steps. That review determined there was sufficient evidence to lay a charge.”

Savoie's lawyer, Leslie Matchim, says investigators originally told him no charges would be laid, but he believes that decision was reversed by upper levels of the RCMP.

"As I've been saying for quite some time, we were told no charges were forthcoming. However, given that they have elected to apparently renege on that indication, we've since then been expecting the charge."

Savoie is scheduled to return to court April 27.

Reptile Ocean was an unlicensed zoo and pet store, New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources officials have said.

Savoie was the subject of a criminal investigation and RCMP turned the file over to Crown prosecutors in July.

A conviction of criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum life sentence.