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SYFY WIRE snakes

Woman found strangled to death by python at home containing 140 snakes

By Adam Pockross
Reticulated Python

An Indiana woman's "passion" for snakes has sadly turned deadly.

Indiana police found 36-year-old Laura Hurst's unresponsive body on Wednesday night, with “an eight-foot reticulated python” wrapped around her neck, per Journal & Courier (part of the USA Today network). First responders and medics on the scene tried to revive Hurst, but were unsuccessful.

Today, the Benton County Coroner autopsy revealed that the preliminary cause of death was "asphyxia due to strangulation by a snake." The final autopsy results could take as much as four to six weeks, depending on toxicology reports.

According to J&C, the home is owned by Benton County Sheriff Don Munson, who set up the home specifically for the purposes of collecting snakes. Hurst, a mother of two, apparently housed some of her own snakes there. According to Indiana State Police spokesperson Sgt. Kim Riley, the house contained 140 snakes.

Munson found Hurst unresponsive on Wednesday at 8:51 p.m. with the python wrapped “loosely” around her neck. According to Sgt. Kim Riley, Munson was able to unwrap the snake from around Hurst's neck, but failed to revive her.

Per Riley, the snake in question had been removed from its enclosure, and was the only one out when police arrived at the home Wednesday night.

There is reportedly no signage on the home indicating what’s inside, and Munson declined to elaborate to J&C on its use, though he says he’s being “fully cooperative” with everyone involved in the investigation.  

The news outlet does cite one of its 2001 stories about Munson, though, detailing his time as a guest at Oxford Elementary School showing off his 13-foot, 45-pound python while talking about his snake-breeding business and the 52 snakes in his garage at the time.

According to Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokesperson Marty Benson (per J&C), “The Indiana Department of Natural Resources does not regulate the possession of any species of python or boa constrictor.” Nor does it regulate the quantity of said non-venomous snakes. 

While it’s certainly no way to go, Hurtz appears to at least have been doing something she was passionate about, according to her divorce attorney Marcel Katz. “She had a real passion for snakes,” Katz told J&C. “That was a big issue for her.”

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