CAMPBELLTON, N.B. -- A jury of eight women and four men was chosen Monday for the trial of a man charged in the deaths of two boys who were suffocated by a python.
Jean-Claude Savoie, who now lives near Montreal, pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death as the case convened at the Campbellton Civic Centre rink.
It took until late afternoon to choose the jury and two alternates. The case now moves to the nearby Campbellton courthouse, where two weeks have been set aside for the trial.
Four-year-old Noah Barthe and his six-year-old brother, Connor, died after a 45-kilogram African rock python fell into the room where they slept in Savoie's Campbellton apartment in August 2013.
At the time, the RCMP said the snake managed to get out of its tank overnight while the boys were sleeping.
The apartment was above the Reptile Ocean pet store, also owned by Savoie, who was a family friend and had taken the boys shopping and to a farm before the sleepover with his son.
Jury selection was held at the rink to accommodate nearly 400 potential jurors. One end of the rink was converted into a make-shift court.
"Your job will be to consider the evidence, and in the end decide if Jean-Claude Savoie is guilty or not-guilty," Judge Fred Ferguson told the potential jurors.
Savoie, who has glasses and a short beard, sat quietly throughout proceedings.
In the days after the boys' deaths, 23 reptiles were seized from Savoie's store.
Environment Canada said one of its wildlife officers took the snake to Reptile Ocean in 2002.
Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the department, said they were asked to help take the snake to Reptile Ocean after it was abandoned at the SPCA in Moncton, N.B.
In an email, he said department records indicate Reptile Ocean was operating as a zoo when the snake arrived at the facility in August 2002.
Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, the only nationally recognized body in the country that grants accreditation for zoos, said Reptile Ocean was never accredited nor requested accreditation.