It was a snakebite.
David Riston died of “accidental snake envenomation” in January 2022, per a Maryland coroner’s autopsy. Riston lived in Pomfret, Maryland and was 49 years old.
Maryland police approached Riston’s home on January 19, 2022 for a welfare check after being tipped off by a neighbour. The neighbour noticed they hadn’t seen Riston in over a day but spotted someone slumped over on the floor when they peered through a window.
Upon entering the home, the police found over 100 snakes in cages surrounding the man, later identified as Riston. Some of the snakes in Riston’s possession were venomous, though it is illegal to own venomous pets in Maryland. The collection included rattlesnakes, cobras, black mambas, and a 4.27 m Burmese python. The snakes were removed from Riston’s home by Charles County Animal Control with approval from his mother. NBC Washington reports that the venomous snakes were brought to North Carolina while the venomous ones were transported to Virginia. In all, there were 124 reptiles in the house, the largest collection local Animal Control inspectors had ever seen.
Riston’s neighbours were blissfully unaware of his reptilian hobby, but Animal Control spokesperson Jennifer Harris said the snakes were “meticulously cared for” by Riston. How cute.
Why did it take months to discover a cause of death seemingly so obvious it could bite you?
The Maryland Department of Health isn’t currently able to answer that. A spokesperson said: “We can confirm that the cause of death for David Riston is snake envenomation, and the manner of death is accidental. We do not have any further information to share at this time.”
According to the World Health Organisation, between 4.5 and 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes every year, and 81,000 to 138,000 die from complications.
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