Patrick Von Allmen
Article originally published in The Corydon Democrat by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor on September 6th, 2006
Photos provided by the Von Allmen family.
A Lanesville man who had numerous, nonvenomous pet snakes apparently died Monday evening when he was asphyxiated by one of his pythons, a rare occurrence worldwide.
Patrick Christian Von Allmen, 23, was found lying on the floor of an outbuilding by a family member Monday. Von Allmen lived in a converted room of the building that is located on his parents' property in the 7200 block of Pennington Street in Lanesville.
Indiana Conservation Officer Jim Hash said the building was sealed so the snakes could not escape from the structure, which also was kept double locked.
Von Allmen had spoken to family members at the main residence about mid-afternoon when he went to the house to take a shower. He told them he was going to treat the snake, a 14-foot-long Reticulated python, for a medical condition, Hash said, commonly referred to as "mouth rot." Von Allmen had been treating the python for mouth sores for about a week, Hash said.
Von Allmen, who was about 5-foot-8 and weighed 150 pounds, was found unresponsive by his younger brother, Matthew, about three hours later. Emergency workers were summoned about 7:45 p.m.
Hash said when he entered the building with Von Allmen's father, Gaylord, and brother, they located the unconfined python in a box. Von Allmen's other snakes, including other pythons and three boa constrictors that are not native to Indiana, were in cages or tanks, Hash said.
Harrison County Coroner Steve Hamm said Patrick Von Allmen was pronounced dead at the scene.
Preliminary findings from an autopsy performed early yesterday morning at the Kentucky Medical Examiner's Office in Louisville indicate that Von Allmen died from asphyxiation, Hamm said.
A cut on Von Allmen's head apparently was caused when he fell, Hash said.
According to statistics, only eight or nine people worldwide are asphyxiated annually by pythons.
Gaylord Von Allmen said his son had been handling snakes for about five years and was well-versed in caring for the reptiles. The family had obtained this particular python about five months ago.
Conservation Officer Mark Farmer said Von Allmen's possession of the snakes met current Indiana law.
A Reticulated python is the longest existing snake species, reaching a length of nearly 33 feet (the record length is 32 feet, 9.5 inches). According to Wikipedia, a free, online encyclopedia, this species of python doesn't normally attack humans, but has been known to bite or constrict when they feel threatened or mistake a hand for food.
Milltown Chief Marshal Ray Saylor recalled Von Allmen as "a good kid who was very interested in promoting projects for the youth."
Saylor said he first met Von Allmen about nine years ago while he was the chief marshal in Lanesville and Von Allmen was a student at Lanesville Junior-Senior High School.
"He was riding a skateboard down the road through town," Saylor said, "and we talked about how to make things safer for skateboarders."
Von Allmen drafted some designs and took the lead role in promoting a possible skate park for Harrison County, Saylor said.
"He also helped spearhead a clean-up committee of teens who helped rid the (Lanesville) community of graffiti," he said.
As a teenager, Von Allmen showed an interest in law enforcement, even riding with Saylor on patrols on occasion.
"Our friendship continued after I left Lanesville and went to Milltown," Saylor said. "He would visit me at the (Milltown) police station or call me for my opinion on matters.
"His death will be a loss for the community of Lanesville," he said.
Patrick Von Allmen and some of his relatives belong to the Kentucky Herpetological Society, Hash said. The Von Allmens hope to be able to place the snakes with some of the society's other members, Hash said.
Assisting at the scene were members of the Lanesville Volunteer Fire Dept., Harrison County Hospital EMS personnel and the Harrison County Sheriff's Dept.
Born Dec. 3 1982 in Louisville, Patrick Christian Von Allmen was the son of Gaylord A. and Lettie C. Oelze Von Allmen.
He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Lanesville, a Kentucky Colonel and a distinguished citizen of Louisville.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Mary Pat Von Allmen and Cletus and Regina Oelze.
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