Chattanooga: Snake supplier Chuck Hurd jailed

Chattanooga: Snake supplier Chuck Hurd jailed

February 8th, 2011 by Todd South in News

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.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chuck...

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.

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.

Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Chuck...

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.


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