The couple arrested after their 3-year-old son was bitten by an 18-foot python entered an Alford plea to misdemeanor child abuse charges Thursday in Las Vegas Justice Court.
Melissa Melendrez, 25, and Anthony Melendrez, 26, were facing one count each of felony child abuse resulting in substantial bodily harm and felony child neglect after a tiger reticulated python escaped its cage at the couple’s apartment, wrapped itself around their son and bit him.
Melissa Melendrez stabbed the snake several times with a knife on Jan. 20. The snake was later euthanized.
The Alford plea means the parents don’t admit wrongdoing but recognize that prosecutors could prove the charges against them at trial.
"The parents weren’t negligent. The child isn’t forever scarred," said Kristina Wildeveld, attorney for Melissa Melendrez.
Wildeveld said the 3-year-old was treated for his injuries with an antibiotic ointment.
The couple will formally enter their pleas on April 2. They could be sentenced to pay a fine and serve up to a year behind bars.
The python, named "Eve," belonged to Eden’s Gentleman’s Club. The couple was caring for it while the club was being renovated.
An arrest report said the couple owned and kept six snakes in their apartment, on Flamingo Road near Fort Apache Road. One of them, a 7-foot snake named "Bryce," was allowed to roam free in the apartment and sometimes slept on the couple’s bed. The other snakes were in cages.
On the day of the incident, Melissa Melendrez told police that she walked into the apartment’s master bedroom and saw the python wrapped around the boy.
Melissa Melendrez ran to the kitchen, got a knife, returned to the bedroom and cut the snake several times, the report stated.
She told police that her husband has a gun but she didn’t want to shoot the snake out of fear that a bullet might have penetrated her floor and hit her downstairs neighbor.
While Melissa Melendrez was performing CPR on her son, the python wrapped itself around her waist. Paramedics arrived and one grabbed the snake’s head, allowing Melissa Melendrez to get out of the room, the report states.
Authorities said the snake’s cage had "insufficient" latches with no locks on it.
Contact reporter David Kihara at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.