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Valuable pythons stolen from Fort Mill reptile shop

By Tim Eberly The Herald (Published January 18 2004)

FORT MILL -- York County authorities are investigating an incident in which 10 pythons -- two of which are at least 12 feet long -- were stolen Friday from a reptile shop on U.S. 21. The pythons were taken from Carolina Reptile Exchange, located at 3312 U.S. 21, between 1:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., according to a York County Sheriff's Office report.

The total value of the missing reptiles is more than $72,000. None of them are poisonous.

Bruce Eisenmann, the store owner, said he suspects the thief was someone who frequented the business, which opened in July.

"They went and got bags out of the back room to pack the snakes in," Eisenmann, 42, said. "They knew exactly what they were doing." The reptiles had not been recovered as of Saturday night, but the York County Sheriff's Office is investigating the case. Sheriff's Detective Tracy Strickland said he has interviewed several people. No one has been charged.

"They're unique and exotic snakes, and I guess there's a market for them," Strickland said. The owner of a nearby drywall company saw the store had been burglarized and reported it around noon Friday. Someone broke in by breaking through a glass back door, the report stated.

Six of Eisenman's breeding pythons were taken, and a 25-year-old Clover man reported four pythons he kept at the store were also stolen. Most of the snakes were in glass pens, which the suspect broke to get them out. The most expensive reptiles taken were two 20-inch piebald pythons valued at $20,000 apiece. A 12-foot reticulated albino python, valued at $7,000, and a 12-inch spider ball python, valued at $15,000, also were missing.

"This is my personal stuff," said Eisenmann, adding that the stolen pythons weren't even for sale. "They only took the highest of the high dollar. This is what I was depending on for this store to make it." Eisenmann said it would be difficult to sell the pythons without their registration paperwork. There's a large reptile show in less than two weeks in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Internet is an option, he said.

Suspicious activity began at the reptile shop a week before Friday's theft. A 10-foot albino python mysteriously went missing, Eisenmann said.

At 11 p.m. Thursday, Eisen-mann set several traps in the store and waited in the dark. He left at 1:30 a.m. Friday, and the burglary occurred sometime in the next 10 hours.

Anyone with information about the burglary is encouraged to call the sheriff's office at 628-3059 or Crimestoppers of York County at 877-409-4321.

Contact Tim Eberly at 329-4063 or teberly@heraldonline.com.



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