08/21/2013 01:54 EDT | Updated 10/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Snake owner investigated for negligence in N.B. boys' deaths

Court documents show the owner of a Campbellton, N.B. reptile store is being investigated for criminal negligence causing death, after a large python escaped its enclosure and killed two young boys a few weeks ago.

On Aug. 5, an African rock python kept in an apartment above Reptile Ocean escaped its enclosure, slithered through the ventilation system into a room where Noah Barthe, 4, and his brother Connor, 6, were sleeping. The snake asphyxiated the boys.

According to court documents, police executed a search warrant that day at Reptile Ocean, owned by Jean-Claude Savoie. The purpose of the warrant was to further investigate the deaths and determine whether the enclosure in which the snake was being held was inadequate or defective.

Last week, a former employee of Reptile Ocean told a web-based radio program that the snake likely escaped through a gap in the enclosure where a fan had been removed.

Seized items included pillows and linens the boys were sleeping on, pieces of the ventilation system and ceiling, as well as snakeskin found at the scene.

The boys’ deaths made international headlines and prompted the New Brunswick government to set up a review of provincial wildlife regulations.

African rock pythons are not permitted in New Brunswick, according to the provincial Department of Natural Resources.

The only exceptions granted would be for accredited zoos, not for someone to keep an illegal exotic animal as a pet, officials said.

Reptile Ocean is an unlicensed zoo and pet store, according to DNR officials.

No charges have been laid, but the RCMP has said their criminal investigation is ongoing.