New Brunswick

Python deaths: Jean-Claude Savoie ordered to stand trial

The former owner of a pet store and unlicensed zoo in Campbellton, N.B., has been ordered to stand trial in connection with the 2013 deaths of two young brothers killed by a python as they slept.

Ex-pet store owner charged with criminal negligence causing deaths of 2 Campbellton, N.B., brothers

The former owner of a pet store and unlicensed zoo in Campbellton, N.B., has been ordered to stand trial in connection with the 2013 deaths of two young brothers killed by a python as they slept.

Judge Brigitte Sivret issued the ruling today at the end of a preliminary hearing for Jean-Claude Savoie, 39, who is charged with one count of criminal negligence causing death, in Campbellton provincial court. 

Jean-Claude Savoie has been ordered to stand trial on one count of criminal negligence causing death. (Mandy Trecartin/Facebook)
Savoie did not attend the hearing that began on Monday. He had earlier chosen to be tried by a jury in the Court of Queen's Bench, if the preliminary hearing determined a trial would be warranted. A trial date has yet to be set.

Noah Barthe, 4, and Connor Barthe, 6, were asphyxiated by an African rock python as they slept in Savoie's apartment while on a sleepover with Savoie's son in August 2013.

It is believed the snake, which was 4.3 metres long and weighed about 45 kilograms, escaped its enclosure through the apartment's ventilation system before falling through the ceiling of the room in which the Barthe brothers were sleeping.

The RCMP said at the time the boys were killed when they were attacked by the large snake.

African rock pythons are non-venomous snakes that typically kill by constricting their victims.

Court documents indicate when RCMP officers arrived at Reptile Ocean, Savoie had blood on his hands and shorts.

The cause of death was given as asphyxiation.

The apartment was above Savoie's Reptile Ocean, which provincial officials said was an unlicensed zoo and pet store.

Trial date to be set in January

The Crown and defence team will meet with the judge in January to set a trial date.

Connor Barthe, 6, and Noah Barthe, 4, were killed by an African rock python while they slept in Campbellton, N.B., in August 2013.
Following the hearing Thursday, defence lawyer Mikael Bernard said he expected the trial to take at least two weeks.

Bernard said the trial order was not a surprise.

Bernard said given the media's attention to the case, which attracted worldwide interest, it will be difficult to hold the trial in the Campbellton area with emotions still running high.

The defence has the option of requesting a change of venue.

However, after Savoie elected in April to be tried by a jury, another member of the defence team, Leslie Matchim, said his lawyers weren't looking at pursuing a change of venue at this time.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story indicated Jean-Claude Savoie was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death. In fact, he is charged with one count.
    Apr 28, 2016 5:23 PM AT

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