published Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

Chattanooga: Snake supplier Chuck Hurd jailed

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    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chuck Hurd waits to be taken into custody on a $10,000 bond in Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Christine Mann Sell's courtroom Monday after being charged with 48 counts for possession of 12 snakes. The charges included the possession of poisonous snakes in Tennessee, one of which may have bitten Wade Westbrook in East Ridge last week killing him.

A snake enthusiast was caged Monday following his hearing on 48 wildlife law violations.

Chuck Hurd, a 38-year-old Virginia resident, originally was released without bond after his Feb. 2 arrest. But Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Christie Mahn Sell ordered Hurd held on $10,000 bond -- about $200 per charge -- because she said he did not have connections locally.

As of Monday night, Hurd still was in custody at the Hamilton County Jail and could not be reached for comment.

Sell scheduled Hurd's next hearing for March 30 to give him time to find a lawyer.

A woman who accompanied Hurd to court Monday declined to comment or identify herself after the hearing.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency personnel arrested Hurd on suspicion of transporting and importing "poisonous snakes into the state of Tennessee."

Hurd possessed at least a dozen live snakes at the time of his arrest in Hamilton County and received four charges per reptile, court officials said.

The charges lodged against Hurd include possession of wildlife without a permit, unlawful housing and transporting of wildlife, illegal possession of Class II wildlife and importation of wildlife permit papers, according to court documents.

Agency spokesman Dan Hicks previously told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that Hurd, if found guilty, could face maximum jail time of nearly a year in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of his 48 misdemeanor charges.

Hicks said last week that the agency had not ruled out seeking involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of an East Ridge man who had been bitten by a copperhead snake on Jan. 29. Hurd originally said he had given the snake to Wade Westbrook to see if its sex could be determined.

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    Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chuck Hurd waits to be taken into custody on a $10,000 bond in Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Christine Mann Sell's courtroom Monday after being charged with 48 counts for possession of 12 snakes. The charges included the possession of poisonous snakes in Tennessee, one of which may have bitten Wade Westbrook in East Ridge last week killing him.

Anaphylactic shock from the snakebite killed Westbrook.

In an interview last week with the newspaper, Hurd said the snake that bit Wade Westbrook was not from his supply. He said he had not spoken with Westbrook for more than a year.

But in a Facebook posting after Westbrook died, Hurd wrote: "I know in my head that I didn't kill Wade, but I feel different in my heart. ... I may not have pulled the trigger, but I handed him a loaded gun ... without me, he would not have had the snake."

Hicks said the snake belonged to Hurd.

Hurd told the newspaper that he was transporting the snakes to his home in Gate City, Va., from a reptile show in Atlanta and did not think transporting the venomous snakes through Tennessee was illegal.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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chuckhurd said...

Todd, Very poorly written story!

“Hurd originally said he had given the snake to Wade Westbrook to see if its sex could be determined.”

I have never said that! I have stated from the beginning that was not my snake that bit Wade. The family originally said it came from “Chris” not “Chuck.” And as we know now, it was Wade’s snake all along. No one took it there that day. I have had copperhead for over 30 years, if I need to know the sex, I can check it myself.

“Hicks said the snake belonged to Hurd.”

I firmly do not believe that Officer Hicks has said that and in fact, I think that by now he knows very well that snake has never belonged to me.

If this is what you are choosing to do for a living, put some effort into your reporting and try to get the facts straight before you put them out for thousands of people to read.

February 10, 2011 at 11:18 p.m.
wildandfree said...

this is a load of lies! nothing about this story is true, Hurd was not even in town the day Wade got bit, he would have no reason to take a snake to Wade, he taught Wade how to handle the snakes, so why would he need Wade to sex a snake? you can ask anybody who was at Repticon in Atlanta that weekend, Hurd was there, NOT in Chattanooga!

February 11, 2011 at 11:51 a.m.
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