A man was out for a stroll along the river with his girlfriend when they decided to wade in the water. That’s when he felt something bite him on both legs. His girlfriend pleaded with him to go to the hospital, but he had a reason not to go.
Gilbert De Leon, 37, was with his girlfriend Shellie Johns at the Delaware Town Access southwest of Nixa, Missouri, on a Friday afternoon when they decided to cool off in the James River, according to the Springfield News-Leader. Not long into their stroll, De Leon screamed out in pain as he felt himself being bitten by something in the water.
Later in the evening, his girlfriend said he seemed more tired than normal. Johns pleaded with De Leon to go to the hospital, but he stubbornly refused, telling her that he couldn’t afford it, ABC30 reported. Instead of getting help as his girlfriend had insisted, De Leon tried to play doctor, cutting open the wound and trying to squeeze out any venom himself.
“That evening, he got lethargic but just wouldn’t go to a hospital,” Christian County Coroner Brad Cole said. “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.”
As it turns out, De Leon had been bitten on both legs by a snake, and overnight, he succumbed to its lethal venom. Experts aren’t sure what kind of snake bit the victim, but they think it may have been a cottonmouth, also known as a water moccasin. It is black and can often be mistaken for a harmless water snake. The fang marks were 3/4 of an inch wide, which indicated it was not a large snake that bit De Leon.
“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,” Cole said. “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 Cole, he hasn’t seen any other fatalities from snake bites in his career. However, Missouri is home to five different species of venomous snakes, including cottonmouths, copperheads, and three different species of rattlesnakes. To help determine why De Leon died, the coroner did blood work on him and sent it off to be examined.
“We’ve sent off for lab tests that will take about eight weeks to get back,” Cole said. “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.”
Snake bites are pretty rare, and it’s even rarer to have a fatality. Anytime you’re bitten by a snake, whether you can identify the snake or not, it’s a good idea to get medical attention. And, most importantly, never ignore your “nagging” significant other and their pleas for you to get help. Gilbert De Leon didn’t listen, and it ended up costing him his life.