Chattanooga: Man arrested in snake bite death investigation

Chattanooga: Man arrested in snake bite death investigation

February 3rd, 2011 by Staff Report and Harrison Keely in Local - Breaking News

A copperhead snake looks up at the Nature Museum in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officials will hold a 3 p.m. news conference today to announce details of an arrest in connection with a snake bite that led to the death of a 26-year-old East Ridge man.

Wade Westbrook died from anaphylactic shock - a severe allergic reaction - after a copperhead bit him Saturday. Police said a friend brought the snake to Westbrook to check its gender. Westbrook had been bitten before, his friends said.

Samuel Charles Hurd, 38, of Gate City, Va., was arrested Wednesday night by TWRA officers on 48 counts, according to the affidavit of complaint at the Hamilton County Jail. The charges are related to importation of Class 1 wildlife without a permit.

Hurd "was found to have transported and housed a large black plastic box containing 12 highly venomous snakes," the complaint states.

Hurd was released on his own recognizance.

Hurd's Facebook page says he graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and lived here for 16 years before moving to Virginia.

His web page is devoted to venomous snakes, with information on everything from catching and caring for them, to offers to sell snakes and equipment and venom samples, to personal appearances.

In Facebook posts, Hurd has asked for prayer for Westbrook's family and said he's shaken and miserable about what happened.

"I know in my head that I didn't kill Wade, but I feel different in my heart ... without me, he would not have had the snake..."

Follow LIVE coverage of the news conference at 3 p.m.:

For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.