Robert & Melissa Altom

Keeping a dangerous animal that resulted in the death of their son

Centralia, IL

Aug. 29, 1999

Robert, age 26 and Melissa, age 21, were charged with child endangerment and the unlawful possession of a dangerous animal. Hisser, a 7 1/2 foot African rock python, slipped out of its enclosure and smothered to death the couple's 3-year-old son Jesse.

The Altom's knew that this was a temperamental snake, prone to strikes against another person. If convicted they could have faced up to 10 years in prison. The unlawful possession of a dangerous animal is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

On March 24th, 2000 a judge without letting the case go to the jury acquitted the Altom's. The judge stated that the prosecution failed to prove the Altom's were consciously aware the snake was a danger to their child, despite the testimony of 2 experts on snakes who testified that a glass enclosure with a homemade screen lid was grossly inadequate to confine the snake.

The Altom's got the snake to replace 2 puppies that neighbors had complained about making too much noise.


The Manchester Union Leader

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch