FREDERICTON - The RCMP in New Brunswick said Tuesday they have completed their investigation into the deaths of two boys who were asphyxiated by a python and have handed the case to the Crown to determine whether charges should be laid.
Noah Barthe, 4, and his six-year-old brother Connor were killed last August in Campbellton after a 45-kilogram African rock python escaped its enclosure inside an apartment where they were staying for a sleepover.
The apartment was owned by Jean-Claude Savoie, a friend of the children. Savoie also owned the Reptile Ocean exotic pet store located below the apartment.
Savoie's lawyer, Leslie Matchim, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
In May, Matchim spoke out on the case, saying he was told by the RCMP that there would be no charges against his client. At the time, he said he was told by the lead investigator in December that the RCMP had the file reviewed by a Mountie in Halifax, a senior RCMP officer in Campbellton, N.B., and a Crown prosecutor in New Brunswick — and they all concluded that criminal charges were not appropriate.
Matchim also said he was told that a new investigator was assigned to the case some time in the new year.
No one from the province's Crown Prosecutors Office could be reached for comment.
RCMP Const. Jullie Rogers-Marsh said Tuesday the Mounties don't recommend to the Crown whether charges should be laid. But on Wednesday she said sometimes the RCMP do recommend whether charges should be laid but she declined to say whether they have done so in this case. Prosecutors may also ask police to do further investigation before they make their decision, she added.
"This investigation is certainly unique in Canada," Rogers-Marsh said.
Since 1992, African rock pythons have been banned in New Brunswick unless a permit is obtained. Only accredited zoos can obtain such a permit.
A total of 23 reptiles that were banned without a permit in New Brunswick were seized from the pet shop after the deaths of the boys. Four American alligators that were also taken from the store were euthanized.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version quoted the RCMP as saying the Mounties don't recommend charges to the Crown, but the force said later they sometimes do that.
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