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N.B. natural resources department takes over scene at exotic pet store

Officials from New Brunswick's natural resources department have taken over the scene at an exotic animal store in Campbellton as police try to figure out when and how the snake, believed to have killed two young brothers, came into the country.

RCMP Sgt. Alain Tremblay told The Globe Wednesday, too, that partial results of the autopsies performed on Connor Barthe, 6, and his four-year-old brother, Noah, could be released later Wednesday.

The brothers were found dead Monday morning. They died sometime overnight while on a sleepover at their friend's apartment, which is located over the store, Ocean Reptile. It is owned by Jean-Claude Savoie; he is also the owner of the African rock python, which is believed to be the snake that killed the boys.

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"This morning the scene was turned over to the Department of Natural Resources and they are the ones calling the shots right now and deciding what to do with the animals," Sgt. Tremblay said. "We are done with the scene."

He described the store as being full of animals, including exotic spiders, snakes, fish and even a crocodile.

An expert from Toronto and Moncton's Magnetic Hill Zoo are also helping out the provincial officials as they try to figure out what to do with all these animals.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Tremblay says the police investigation, which is in its early stages, is now focusing part of its attention on exactly how the African rock python came into the country. Police are pouring through documents to try to find out more about it.

The snake, which has been euthanized, is not legal in New Brunswick unless a permit is issued. An accredited zoo, such as the Magnetic Hill Zoo, has permits to house these reptiles. But they are not issued to people who want to own these snakes as pets. A source told The Globe that Mr. Savoie did not have a permit.

As these investigations continue, residents are preparing for a vigil to honour the boys.

Campbellton's Deputy Mayor Ian Comeau will deliver a note of caution at the vigil Wednesday evening where he is expecting at least 500 people.

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"We're going to let the investigation conclude, not rush to any quick judgment," he said in an interview Wednesday. "Sometimes we make decisions on emotions and that can come back and hurt us. We say some things and we might regret it."

Mr. Comeau said three families are grieving this tragedy – the boys' mother's family, their fathers' family and Jean-Claude Savoie's family.

Mr. Savoie has uttered just a few words to the media since the tragedy. He is the owner of the African rock python that is believed to have killed the children. It was his apartment, located over the store, where the boys were sleeping.

He found the boys and the snake in the living room of his apartment early Monday morning. His son is a friend of the two boys – and the families were close.

Campbellton is a close-knit city of about 7,500 people. According to Mr. Comeau, the Savoie family is respected in the community. Mr. Savoie's grandfather owned the local hardware store, which his father now runs. For the past 17 years, Mr. Savoie has operated Ocean Reptile, an exotic pet store.

Emotions are running high here – and at a press conference Tuesday reporters asked police whether there had been any threats against Mr. Savoie.

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None have been reported, but RCMP Sgt. Tremblay said that his force is "aware that it may be a problem later on."

Later, the boys' great-uncle, David Rose, read a statement from the family in which he talked about the friendship between Mr. Savoie's family and the boys.

That was deliberate, Mr. Comeau says. "What the family tried to do [Tuesday] is relay a message out there to the citizens that they're not mad at Mr. Savoie, that this is an accident," Mr. Comeau told The Globe. "They were good friends. Their kids have played all their life."

Mr. Rose described the brothers' last day as a "super day." Mr. Savoie took them shopping for candy and then to his family farm in nearby Saint-Arthur. There, they played with the animals and drove around on the farm tractor.

"After a long day late into night, they got home, home for the sleep over at Jean-Claude's house and the two families stayed together until midnight," Mr. Rose said. "That's the type of life they had and that's what we are are going to try to remember."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More


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