CASCADE, Md. - A budding star on YouTube, 28-year-old Brandon Boyles set his sights on making a name for himself by posting videos of him handling venomous snakes.
"Some people's passion exceeds their common sense," said Animal Handler Callan Hahn of the Catoctin Zoo in Thurmont who was aware Boyles had a private collection of venomous reptiles when he landed a job there, "We told him that if he was going to move to Maryland, he would have to board those animals here, because we would not be involved with him breaking the law. When he left, he was supposed to be taking those animals back home."
But when Boyles left his job with the zoo in September, he never left the state, and while he got rid of his three alligators and a crocodile, it became apparent through his online videos that the snakes remained in his Cascade home.
Corporal Mike Lathroum of the state's Natural Resources police led the raid on Boyles' home two weeks ago.
"The snakes were all in the back bedroom,” said Lathroum, “As we made our way into that room, there were several Rubbermaid-style totes stacked up on top of each other in the hallway and as we approach, I heard the unmistakable sound of a rattlesnake start to buzz."
Dirty plastic containers insufficient to contain the six Western Diamondback rattlesnakes, a lack of fresh water and, oh by the way, there was the matter of the missing pair of cobras.
"He had other snakes that were not located,” said Lathroum, “We did find a couple of them dead in his freezer. His animal husbandry, his care of the animals didn't seem to be the best, and I think he had a lot of fatalities as a result."
Boyles now faces 23 counts of illegal possession of venomous snakes, animal cruelty and reckless endangerment after his bid for stardom as venom-man-20 on YouTube led him to make roommates of his potentially-deadly pets, leaving many to wonder if he was just a careless caretaker or just plain crazy.
"I'm not sure I would consider him crazy,” said Hahn, “Possibly naive or irresponsible, but I don't think he's crazy. I just don't think he really took into account the entire scope of his actions."
Police also seized a pair of snakes called "boomslangs" from Boyles' home, and while it's not yet illegal to own them here in Maryland, experts say their venom can make you “bleed from all of your orifices until you die”.