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PET PYTHON SQUEEZES TEEN TO DEATH

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A 15-year-old boy was squeezed to death Tuesday by an 11-foot Burmese python that belonged to the boy's older brother.

Derek James Romero, of the suburb of Commerce City, was found by his sister Tuesday afternoon, unconscious in an upstairs bedroom.The family's pet snake, Sally, was coiled next to him. At first the sister thought the boy was joking, said one relative. Relatives said they'd talked to the boy 45 minutes earlier.

"The snake was very aggressive when we came on the scene," said Capt. Michael Maudlin of the Commerce City police. "It did not want anyone in the room."

With poles normally used to subdue rabid dogs, police officers removed the snake to the Tri-County Health Department, where it was to be examined by animal control experts Wednesday.

Family members told police the snake had been playful throughout the eight years they owned it.

"It was a very docile snake," said David Swanson, a 30-year-old cousin of the boy. "I've held it before, and there was never any problem. I just can't imagine this happening. I've never heard of anything like this happening in the United States."

Maudlin said the snake was fed a steady diet of rabbits.

"A resident told us the snake had been fed four or five days ago," Maudlin said. "They fed it a rabbit every month or month-and-a-half.

"There was no indication from our observations that the snake was trying to eat the child," he said, adding, "We will be talking to people who are experts in the field, but at this point there's no indication of abuse of the snake."