Family defends woman handing snake to toddler

- The Highlands County Sheriff's Office says there's probable cause a Sebring mother committed child abuse when it let a snake bite her 1-year-old.

The woman's family members say the girl was not injured by the bite and that it was to teach her not to play with snakes.

Highlands County deputies reviewed the video, which was posted online, showing Chartelle St. Laurent holding a snake to her daughter, her daughter reaching for it, and then being bitten.

"She says she was just trying to teach the child to be afraid of snakes," said Scott Dressel of the Highlands County Sheriff's Office.

Since the video was posted to Facebook on Friday, reaction, says Chartelle's mother, Brenda, has been harsh.

"People that know us know she would never hurt her child," said Brenda St. Laurent. "I am just tired of all these people saying she should be executed. Really? Really? Should she be executed? She was trying to protect her daughter from picking up a poisonous snake."

Brenda spoke to us from their ranch in Sebring, saying they have always lived around animals, and that she'd done that same exercise on Chartelle during her childhood.

"She regrets putting it on Facebook for all these morons," said St. Laurent. "But as far as teaching the child? No. And I don't regret her doing it either."

They said she purposely chose a non-poisonous snake and that the baby's skin wasn't broken.

"There was no harm to the baby," said St. Laurent. "The baby is fine, a happy, healthy baby."

Deputies said she let it bite her first to make sure it wouldn't bite too hard.

"A lot of people see it one way or another," said Brendan Baker, Chartelle's fiance and the baby's father. "It is unorthodox, yes. But it is a harmless action, it was not meant to hurt or traumatize or anything bad to the baby."

The family says DCF visited and took no action.  They are aware deputies have referred it to the state attorney's office, saying there's probable cause the lesson in snakes, was child abuse.

"Obviously it is not a good idea," said Dressel. "There are teachable moments you can have with a child. That didn't seem like a good one."

The family says they have not yet been contacted by the state attorney's office.

The state attorney's office could not immediately respond to our request for comment.

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