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Pets Snakes Probably Bit Hand That Fed Them, Man’s Widow Says

October 28, 1987

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. (AP) _ A collector of poisonous snakes, who kept 10 in a bedroom in his home and was known as ″Mr. Snake″ to neighborhood children, probably died of snake bite, say his widow and police.

Styles Richmond Paddock Jr., 56, who lectured about the reptiles and was widely respected in the field, was found unconscious last weekend in a hall near the room where the snakes were kept. He had turned blue in his hands, face and feet and died in a hospital an hour later.

He had a two-inch cut in the back of his head and a puncture wound in his right middle finger, police said. The cut was possibly from a fall, they said.

Elaine Paddock said her husband had been bitten five times in the past 50 years. She said snake venom must have taken effect so quickly Saturday that he was unable to call for help.

Dr. Sara Irrgang, Seminole County medical examiner, said Monday that the first results of an autopsy show that Paddock died from cardiopulmonary failure. She said toxicology tests will show if a poison caused the heart and lungs to stop working.

Mrs. Paddock said her husband had been feeding the snakes.

Paddock, who gave eight to 10 lectures a month to schoolchildren, church groups and Boy Scout troops, ″always enjoyed his snakes and sharing what he knew about them,″ said Frank Godwin, owner of Gatorland Zoo near Orlando.

″His main concern was that children who live in Florida should be aware of the poisonous snakes that live here, too,″ Mrs. Paddock said.

She plans to give the snakes to a high school biology teacher.

″They are fascinating creatures,″ Godwin said. ″There is an excitement of keeping something you know can kill you.″

″It’s just a shame. That was his life and that was his death,″ neighbor Frances Zaslov said of Paddock’s passion for his collection of reptiles.

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