Police on Tuesday arrested the parents of a 3-year-old boy who was bitten and squeezed to the point of unconsciousness by an 18-foot python last month.
Melissa Melendrez, 25, and Anthony Melendrez, 26, are being charged with one count each of felony child abuse resulting in substantial bodily harm and felony child neglect for the Jan. 20 incident in their southwest valley apartment.
The charges stem from concerns authorities had over the cage housing the massive tiger reticulated python. According to the couple’s arrest report, the door of the wood and fiberglass cage was being held together by duct tape and had “insufficient” latches with no locks.
At night, Anthony Melendrez would nail shut the door of the cage. Melissa Melendrez worried the snake might escape, according to the report.
The arrests contrast with how authorities dealt with previous animal attack cases, notably two last year in which pit bulls fatally mauled two young children. No one was charged in those cases because prosecutors felt they could not prove that the children were intentionally placed in harm’s way, as the state statutes require.
Clark County District Attorney David Roger said this case is different, partly because it involves a snake.
“We felt that under the circumstances, because the cage was in disrepair and because a python seems to be an inherently dangerous pet, that the abuse and neglect statute applied,” Roger said.
The couple’s youngest son had to be resuscitated by his mother after she stabbed the snake several times with a kitchen knife. He has fully recovered and he and his 5-year-old brother are staying with Patty Robson, their grandmother.
Robson told the Review-Journal Tuesday that she was upset by the way authorities have handled her daughter’s case versus the cases of others involved in animal attacks. She said her grandson didn’t require any stitches and didn’t sustain internal injuries in the incident.
“There’ve been worse dog bites, and how many people keep a dog properly restrained?” she said. “It was a freak accident. It was just one of those things that wasn’t planned.”
The report doesn’t state how the snake named Eve escaped the cage. Eve had been in the home for four to six weeks, according to the arrest report.
Robson said the family had owned the snake before having a third party sell it to the Eden Gentlemen’s Club, on Valley View Boulevard near Spring Mountain Road. The person who bought the python then asked the couple to care for it while the club was being remodeled, Robson said.
But Robson said the man wouldn’t return phone calls when the family tried to return the snake.
Calls to the club have not been returned.
Melissa Melendrez told police that on the morning of the attack, she hadn’t touched the cage and didn’t know if it was secure. She went to the bathroom, and when she came out, her 3-year-old son was in the master bedroom. She could only see his feet because the snake had flipped him upside down while coiling around him, according to the arrest report.
She then ran to the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and began stabbing the snake. Her son had “light brown stuff” coming from his mouth and his face turned blue, the report states.
The snake then let go, and as Melissa Melendrez was performing CPR, it started wrapping itself around her waist, according to the report.
The snake was euthanized because of the knife wounds it sustained. The boy was hospitalized overnight. Melissa Melendrez suffered bite marks on her hands. Anthony Melendrez was not home at the time.
Police noted in the arrest report that the family’s five other snakes, ranging in length from three feet to 11 feet, were kept in cages without locks.
Anthony Melendrez told police that once when Eve was shedding, she pressed against her cage and broke the door and window.
Robson praised her daughter’s response to the attack, but she didn’t know how to feel about the charges.
“I can understand why the charges are in place,” Robson said. “No, I don’t feel that my daughter did anything wrong.”
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at email@example.com or 702-383-0440.