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Putnam Lake Woman Killed By Pet Snake Bite; Friends Perplexed

PUTNAM LAKE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Police in the northern suburbs are blaming a pet exotic snake for the death of one of its owners. The animal's bite is poisonous and almost always fatal.

Sixty miles north of New York City the car in the driveway has a bumper sticker that reads "the only good snake is a live snake," evidence of an unusual collection of reptiles removed after one of them apparently bit and killed a woman here, Aleta Stacy.

"One of the strangest things I've ever dealt with since becoming sheriff of Putnam County," Donald Smith told CBS 2's Lou Young.

The woman was found in her bedroom by her boyfriend early Tuesday evening. The prime suspect is a so-called "Black Mamba," a native of Africa, and one of 75 snakes the couple kept in their home under lock and key. The problem was the snake's cage padlock had been opened.

"When they examined the body they observed one of her forearms where appeared to be fresh, bite marks, snake marks on the arm," Capt. William McNamara said.

The animal we're talking about is identified by National Geographic as the fastest snake in the world out in the wild and the second deadliest when you look at the neurotoxin power of it's venom. No one familiar with the snake would handle it casually and police are looking at the possibility that what happened here wasn't an accident.

"We can't understand why she didn't call 911 right away and things like that. There's a lot of loose ends," a friend said.

Friends of the late victim didn't want Young to use their names but were shaken by the circumstances of the woman's death.

"She was an unhappy lady and a very nice lady, a very nice person," one friend said, adding when asked if it's possible her death was intentional, "It could've been."

Of the more than six dozen snakes taken from the home on Wednesday, 56 were poisonous, including a cobra, which is illegal to possess without a permit. A state investigation is underway.

All 75 snakes are currently being housed at the Bronx Zoo.

In March, New York City was both terrified and amused by the exploits of a cobra that escaped from its enclosure in the Bronx Zoo. It was recaptured and is back on display.

Should it be illegal to own snakes as pets? Sound off in our comments section.

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