The trial has started for the mother who allegedly poisoned her son to death with salt. Lacey Spears of Scottsville, Kentucky, was charged in the death of her son a year ago with depraved murder and manslaughter. Five-year-old Garnett-Paul Spears was in the hospital when prosecutors say his mother forced salt into a feeding tube which was lodged in the boy’s stomach.
Spears was living in Chestnut Ridge, NY, at the time of her son’s death, but is originally from Decatur, Alabama. Before her arrest in June of last year, she moved to Kentucky where she lived until she was sent to prison. Supposedly, the man who is the boy’s father resides in Alabama.
This heartbreaking and puzzling murder case has confounded onlookers. Prosecutors allege Spears forced salt into Garnett-Paul’s feeding tube while he was staying at Westchester Medical Center and documented his decline on social media. The child’s sodium levels rose to dangerous heights with no medical explanation, which led to a swollen brain, seizures and ultimately, the boy’s untimely death.
Allegedly, the poisoning occurred over the four days Garnett-Paul spent at Nyack Hospital and Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital before he was pronounced dead. According to prosecutor Doreen Lloyd, “This mother was intentionally feeding her child salt at toxic levels.”
Acting state Supreme Court Justice Robert Neary ruled last week that messages on MySpace, Twitter and Facebook which were posted by Spears are relevant and will likely be introduced as evidence. Neary also clarified that prosecutors can inform jurors about research Spears did on the Internet relative to the properties of iodized salt and the dangers of sodium in children.
Other known evidence in the case includes feed bags which were used for Garnett-Paul which, according to prosecutors, have extraordinary concentrations of salt. Supposedly, the boy’s mother tried to cover her actions by asking a friend to take a feeding bag. Spears allegedly told the friend, “Get rid of it and do not tell anyone.”
While this mother was allegedly administering salt through her son’s feeding tube into his stomach, she was posting his failing health on social media. In the last 11 days of his life, the boy’s mother submitted 28 postings online to keep her followers informed. On the day of his demise she posted, “Garnett the great journeyed onward today at 10:20 a.m.”
While building their case, investigators subpoenaed a host of hospitals and doctors in New York, Alabama and Florida. These are states where Spears and her son lived during his childhood. Reportedly, Garnett-Paul made an excess of 200 hospital or doctor visits during his short lifetime.
Investigators believe Spears may have Münchausen syndrome by proxy. This is a condition in which caregivers, usually mothers, sicken another who is under their care to gain sympathy. Often the person is their own child. Some experts regard Münchausen syndrome by proxy as a mental illness which, in turn, would be a defense to such crimes, while others consider it a motive. Defense lawyers have asked that prosecutors be barred from referencing the subject during the trial because their client has never been diagnosed with the condition.
The trial for Spears has started. She has been charged with manslaughter for allegations she intended to cause serious physical injury and with depraved murder of her five-year-old son, Garnett-Paul, meaning he was killed under circumstances of indifference to human life rather than with intent. The depraved murder charge carries the same maximum sentence of 25 years to life as intentional murder.
By Cherese Jackson (Virginia)