A Missouri man made a fatal error by deciding not to seek medical attention for what seemed to be a snake bite. The following morning, his girlfriend woke up, but he didn’t.
According to reports, on a Friday afternoon, Gilbert De Leon, 37, and his girlfriend Shellie Johns made the decision to cool off in the James River while they were at the Delaware Town Access southwest of Nixa, Missouri. Soon after they started walking, De Leon felt something in the water bite him, and he yelled out in pain.
De Leon declined to go to the hospital despite Johns’ pleading, telling her he couldn’t afford it, as Johns reported that he appeared more worn out than usual. De Leon attempted to play doctor, cutting open the incision and trying to squeeze out any venom himself, instead of seeking assistance as his girlfriend had urged.
Christian County Coroner Brad Cole said, “That evening, he got lethargic but just wouldn’t go to a hospital. They went to bed, and she reported he was snoring more loudly than usual. The next morning when she woke up she found him dead.”
The type of snake that bit the victim is unknown, although experts believe it may have been a cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin. Being black, it frequently passes for a harmless water snake. Because the bite marks were only 3/4 of an inch wide, De Leon was not bitten by a particularly huge snake. It turns out that De Leon had been bitten by a snake on both legs, and that the snake’s deadly poison had killed him overnight.
Cole said, “His girlfriend reported that he yelled he’d been bitten by a snake and got out of the river to find he’d been bitten twice — once on each leg,
I’m not sure what kind of snake bit him, but the only venomous water snake I’m aware of is a cottonmouth. It could have been something else, but we just don’t know.”
According to officials, there was nothing in the home that gave them grounds to believe the death was due to anything other than a snake bite.
Cottonmouths, copperheads, and three different species of rattlesnakes are among the five venomous snake species found in Missouri.
“We’ve sent off for lab tests that will take about eight weeks to get back. The lab won’t tell us anything about a snake bite, but it will say if there was a drug overdose or alcohol overdose. However, I didn’t find anything else that looked to me like the cause of death was anything other than a snake bite,” Cole said.