Letcher man who starred in snake-handling TV show is charged with a drug crime

jwarren@herald-leader.comApril 16, 2014 

A man who once appeared in a reality TV show about snake handling was among several suspects arrested in a county drug roundup, the Letcher County Sheriff's Department confirmed Wednesday.

Lt. Bob Damron, operations officer with the sheriff's department, said he arrested Verlin Short late Tuesday morning at Short's home in Mayking. Short was charged with trafficking in a controlled substance and was being held in the Letcher County jail, Damron said.

Short, his wife, Reva, and their two children were featured in a TV reality show called Snake Man of Appalachia on the Animal Planet cable TV channel about four years ago.

At that time, Short was described as a coal miner and pastor who handled snakes as a part of his religious beliefs.

Damron said Wednesday that he did not know whether Short still considers himself a pastor. Short "didn't say much" when he was arrested, Damron said.

Short was among about a dozen people the sheriff's department arrested Tuesday in Letcher County as a result of a drug investigation, Damron said. More people might be arrested Wednesday, he said.

Deputies are seeking about 16 people, Damron said.

According to a 2010 story in The Mountain Eagle newspaper at Whitesburg, the TV program was to explore Verlin Short's "hobby" of catching snakes, the story said.

An executive producer on the TV show pilot had met Short in 2002 while producing a documentary about snake and serpent handling for the Travel Channel, the newspaper reported.

Short was quoted in The Mountain Eagle story as saying he had agreed to do the show to "let everyone know we are the same as everyone else. We aren't any different than people who live in a big city."

According to the Mountain Eagle, Short pleaded guilty in Letcher County in 2008 to seven counts of illegally buying, selling or transporting reptiles. He paid a fine but received no jail time, the paper said.

According to the newspaper, Kentucky wildlife officers initially filed more than 79 misdemeanor charges against Short in 2008 for allegedly buying, selling and possessing venomous snakes, including copperheads, timber rattlesnakes and Western diamondback rattlesnakes.

Snake-handling minister Jamie Coots, 42, died in February of a bite he suffered while handling a rattlesnake during a service at a church he pastored in Middlesboro.

Jim Warren: (859) 231-3255.

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