Wife accused in NC snake expert’s death called 911 less than an hour before shooting

Regina Ripa (WECT)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Less than an hour before police said she shot and killed her husband, the wife of the Cape Fear Serpentarium owner called 911 claiming he was attacking her and taking drugs, 911 recordings released Tuesday reveal.

Regina Ripa, 40, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of 60-year-old Larry “Dean” Ripa in their apartment above the Serpentarium on Orange Street Saturday.

RELATED: NC snake exhibit owner murdered Saturday remembered as great friend, ‘top expert’

“My husband is attacking me, ma’am,” Regina relayed to a 911 operator at approximately 1:20 p.m.

Regina then told the dispatcher her husband had guns and that two men were trying to attack her. When pressed for more information, she backtracked, saying she was not being attacked, but that her husband was a violent man and had been taking drugs.


Several minutes into Regina’s call, Larry called the 911 center, saying his wife had mental issues and that no one was attacking anyone, according to dispatch logs. The audio for his call was not immediately available.

Wilmington police apparently arrived to the scene approximately ten minutes into Regina’s call.

“Ma’am, I need an ambulance for my husband – he is not balanced in his head,” Regina said as police arrived.

While it is unclear what happened over the following 40 minutes, the 911 center received a hang-up call from the Cape Fear Serpentarium address at 2:09 p.m.

Several minutes later, a woman standing at the corner of Water and Ann streets with Regina and the Ripas’ 3-year-old son called 911.

“There’s a mother with a child and she’s in distress,” the caller said. “Her husband is hurt and she’s in distress.”

When dispatch asked what the mother’s name was, the caller responded, “she’s not very coherent.”

When asked how the child was doing, the caller said, “he’s a little shaken. He said someone hurt is dad.”

Larry’s friend reported his death at around 2:25 p.m.

“He’s shot in the head,” the man said in a 911 call. “There’s quite a bit of blood.”

When asked if the assailant was still nearby, the man said, “I believe she left. I believe it was his wife. She took their baby and left.”

Regina Ripa made her first court appearance Monday and is being held in the New Hanover County Detention Center without bond.

The Ripas’ son is in the custody of social services.

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