State News

Police: Wife charged in death of NC serpentarium owner

Posted May 14

The Cape Fear Serpentarium in Wilmington houses all types of venomous snakes from around the world along with alligators and other reptiles.

— Police say the owner of the Cape Fear Serpentarium in Wilmington was shot to death and his wife is charged with murder.

Local media report snake expert Dean Ripa was killed Saturday in an apartment above the downtown attraction. Wilmington police spokeswoman Cathryn Lindsay says 40-year-old Regina Ripa is charged with first-degree murder in her husband's death.

The website for the New Hanover County Detention shows Regina Ripa is being held without bond with a court appearance scheduled for Monday.

The serpentarium's website says 60-year-old Dean Ripa had survived 12 venomous snake bites. He founded the serpentarium in 2001.


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  • Amanda Callahan May 16, 1:47 p.m.
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    She took a well respected, gifted herpetologist, writer, singer and all around beautiful human being....
    this is an incredible loss to the community of reptile lovers/herpetologists.

    Death is too good for her, I hope that she rots in prison.
    Rest in peace Mr. Ripa.

  • Amanda Callahan May 16, 1:46 p.m.
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    I got this from facebook. The serpentarium IS running fine and will continue on, ran by professionals that Dean entrusted his serpentarium to.
    (facebook post)
    My name is William Beard from Venom Central. I want to make a statement to all of you who loved and respected Dean Ripa. Dean and I have been close friends for many years... A few years ago Dean relocated me, with my 35+ years experience, here to Wilmington to be his head curator of the Cape Fear Serpentarium. With the tragic events that have occured, per Dean's own wishes, I have been named Director/ Curator of the Cape Fear Serpentarium to ensure the continuation of proper care of Dean's collection, as well as the business- -for his son Arkin and for Dean's legacy. We will be open for business as usual. I just want to reassure everyone who loved Dean and are concerned for his child and his collection, that his legacy is secure and will continue on. Thank you all for your continued support.


  • Ed Brown May 15, 6:32 a.m.
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    If memory serves from a recent visit, this is a small family-run operation. This begs two questions: who's going to take over the operation, and who's feeding all of those snakes now?

  • Stacie Hagwood May 14, 4:27 p.m.
    user avatar

    I love that place.

    The irony of it all. Survive 12 venomous snake bites but not a vindictive woman.