2011-06-16 / Front Page / Around the County

Dangerous snake kills Putnam Lake woman

Home had 75 snakes -- most of them poisonous
Eric Gross

 One of the world's most venomous snakes is believed to have inflicted a bite that killed its owner earlier this week.

The body of Aleta Stacey, 56, was found in her bed by her boyfriend when he returned to the couple's residence on Hopewell Drive in Putnam Lake.

Sheriff Donald Smith reported the incident Wednesday evening. It actually happened the night before; Smith indicated that information could not be released until the reptiles were safely removed from the residence.

According to the sheriff, Stacey and her companion, Vito Caputo, 46, were harboring 75 snakes in their home, the majority of which were poisonous.

Caputo told police that a five foot long extremely poisonous African Black Mamba was the culprit, since he found securing locks missing from the snake's pen when he arrived home – indicating the woman had been handling the serpent before she died.

Smith said investigators found snake bite wounds on Stacey's arm.

An autopsy performed at Putnam Hospital Center was inconclusive, according to Captain William McNamara, who told the Courier Thursday afternoon that police labs do not contain equipment to determine whether or not a person is killed by snake venom: “A special lab will be contacted and asked to analyze the tissue samples taken from the victim which will probably take several days.”

In the meantime, the snakes were taken from the home by reptile experts from the Bronx Zoo and were transferred to the zoo's Reptile Division for safe keeping.

The transfer was so dangerous that police and EMS placed several Medivac helicopters on call, which traveled to the Putnam Lake area to be ready in the event one of the handlers was bitten.


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