Police Hunt for Sender of Deadly Snake

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police detectives released a composite sketch on Friday of the man witnesses said sent a box containing a South African blackneck spitting cobra to a Winnetka man last month.

Workers at Postnet, a mail service business in the 9900 block of Topanga Canyon Boulevard, said a man brought the box in Feb. 20 to be mailed.

Joseff Calhoun, 30, opened the package in his kitchen the next day and was shocked to be face-to-face with the venomous 2-foot-long serpent.

Det. Rick Swanston of the Los Angeles Police Department said Postnet workers described the suspect as a blond-haired white man. He wore an olive green, short-sleeved shirt and green safari pants. He also wore black stud earrings in both ears and a hoop earring in his left ear.

The man had tattoos on his left forearm and is believed to be 28 to 32 years old, about 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, said Swanston, adding that the victim did not recognize the man in the sketch.

Calhoun's lawyer, Malanie Baghdaian, said her client was "nervous, anxious and scared" and did not know who might have sent the snake. She also said Calhoun, a songwriter, did not believe Marion "Suge" Knight and his record company, Tha Row, had any involvement in the incident. Deputy Chief Ronald Bergman raised that possibility initially, but police have since said there is no such connection.

Venom from the blackneck spitting cobra's bite is often fatal. The snake can also spit venom into the victim's eyes, causing irritation or even partial blindness.

The snake was turned over to the Chatsworth animal shelter, where it was later euthanized.

Police said the man who mailed the snake could be charged with attempted murder and violations of the Fish and Game code.

Anyone with information is asked to contact West Valley homicide detectives at (818) 756-8553 or (213) 485-3261.

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