A Maryland father has been discovered dead inside his suburban home lined with cages containing more than 125 snakes, including the highly venomous and illegal spitting cobras and black mambas.
David Riston, 49, was found dead at his home in Pomfret on Wednesday evening, surrounded by his caged pets – some of which are so dangerous they’re illegal to keep as pets in the United States.
It’s still unclear how he died, and investigators have yet to say whether one of the snakes may have killed Riston.
Charles County Sheriff’s deputies were called to a home in the 5500 block of Rafael Drive in Pomfret at around 6pm on Wednesday night after receiving a 911 call from a neighbor, who said that he went to check on the homeowner, whom he had not seen since the day before, and saw him through a window lying unresponsive on the floor.
David Riston, 49, was found dead inside his suburban Maryland home, surrounded by 125 venomous and non-venomous snakes
Officers were called to Riston’s home on Rafael Drive in Pomfret, Maryland, on Wednesday after getting a 911 call from his neighbor
Inside the house, deputies found tanks on racks housing snakes, including venomous species that are illegal in Maryland
An official is seen loading a plastic bin containing a massive yellow Burmese python into a vehicle to transport the critter to Virginia
According to the sheriff’s office, there were no obvious signs of foul play and Riston was transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for an autopsy.
Inside Riston’s residence, more than 125 venomous and non-venomous snakes of different species were discovered in meticulously kept tanks on racks.
Riston was pronounced dead at the scene, but no obvious signs of foul play were found
Jennifer Harris, a spokesperson for Charles County Animal Control, told the station WRC-TV that the breeds included rattlesnakes, spitting cobras, black mambas – the most venomous snakes in Africa – and a 14-foot-long Burmese python.
Riston, who reportedly lived alone, had a valid permit allowing him to keep snakes and reptiles, but under Maryland law, it is illegal to possess any venomous snakes, according to WJLA.
Just two drops of a black mamba’s fast-acting venom can kill a human by shutting down the nervous system and inflicting paralysis.
A spitting cobra can spray venom from its fangs into its victim’s eyes from 10 feet away, causing blindness. Both breeds are illegal to keep as pets in the US.
All the snakes in Riston’s home were said to have been well-cared for by their owner. Terrified neighbors have been reassured that if any of the other snakes have escaped, the cold winter weather will kill them before they get very far.
Charles County Animal Control Chief Ed Tucker said this is the largest private collection of snakes he has ever encountered in his 30-year career.
Animal control officials contacted reptile experts in Virginia and North Carolina to assist them with the safe removal of the snakes, which were seen being loaded into vehicles in plastic bins.
The non-venomous snakes were transported to Virginia, while the venomous ones headed to North Carolina. Handlers had to warm up their vehicles to make it safe for the reptiles to travel, reported WRC.
Among Riston’s slithering pets animal control officials identified black mambas, which are extremely venomous (stock image)
Riston also had spitting cobras in his possession, which can spray venom from 10 feet away (stock image)
Neighbors said they had no idea that Riston had turned his home into a snake terrarium.
Riston’s daughter, Emily Lopez-Lahocki, confirmed her father’s death in a Facebook tribute.
‘The man, the myth, the legend. My dad David Riston, left the earth January 19th, 2022 at the age of 49 years old,’ she wrote. ‘Still in shock. He is genuinely our best friend always making us laugh and keeping the peace. My family deeply mourns a loss today.’