A former Carbon County resident, who owned a reptile store in Lehighton and then abandoned numerous snakes, some of them venomous, pleaded guilty to summary offenses on Tuesday in the county court.
The pleas ended a case that began in 2009. Steven Markevich, 50, of Northampton and formerly of Jim Thorpe, pleaded to three counts of cruelty to animals and one count each of keeping animals prohibited and possession of exotic animals without a permit. Markevich entered the pleas before President Judge Roger N. Nanovic II. Markevich was fined a total of $250 on the charges, but faces a large restitution bill for the work of an animal control agent who had to remove the snakes from Markevich’s store, Serpent’s Den, which was located at 114 S. First St., in Lehighton.
The charges go back to Saturday, April 19, 2009, when police and members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals responded to a complaint at the Lehighton address, regarding the abandoned snakes. Found in the Serpent’s Den were 103 ball pythons, 16 Columbian boas, one jungle carpet python, three Bredis pythons, one Irian Jaya carpet python, two Saharan sand boas, one Dumerils boa, two Honduran milk snakes, one Leucistic Texas rattlesnake, three brooks kingsnakes, four sunset monocled cobras, one Moroccan cobra, one black necked spitting cobra, two urutu vipers, nine prairie rattlesnakes, two Baja rattlesnakes, and seven speckled rattlesnakes.
Some of the snakes found were dead. The SPCA removed the snakes from the building with the help of Chris Foley, an animal rescuer. One of the reasons the case took so long to prosecute was that Markevich failed to appear at the initial court proceeding in the matter. It took law enforcement some time to track him down.
He eventually was found and the prosecution then continued. In addition to the fines, Nanovic ordered Markevich to make restitution to Foley for his expenses totaling $4,640; and also the district attorney’s office for $457 in advertising costs to locate him.