WESTCHESTER, N.Y. - A 26-year-old woman who documented her young son's persistent illness on social media was charged Tuesday with killing him by poisoning him with sodium.
Lacey Spears was indicted in Westchester County, N.Y. on charges of second-degree depraved murder and first-degree manslaughter in the January death of 5-year-old Garnett Spears.
Depraved murder is a count often used in cases that suggest extreme recklessness rather than intentional killing. It carries the same maximum sentence, however - 25 years to life.
CBS New York reports authorities believe Spears tortured her son medically for years and might have suffered from Muchausen by proxy, a psychiatric disorder that leads parents to sicken a child to seek sympathy or attention.
Prosecutors said on Tuesday, according to the station, that Spears fed her son lethal amounts of salt after conducting Internet research about the effects salt would have on the boy.
The 26-year-old pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Tuesday and is being held without bail. A call to her attorney, David Sachs, was not immediately returned.
Spears, who was living in Chestnut Ridge at the time of her son's death, brought her son to Nyack Hospital in Rockland County on Jan. 17, reporting he was having seizures. On Jan. 19, with no medical explanation, Garnett's sodium levels rose to an extremely dangerous level. Spears was sharing her son's hospital room and prosecutors believe the mother administered sodium through the boy's stomach tube.
The boy was transferred to the Westchester Medical Center. The Westchester district attorney says doctors there suspected Spears was harming her son and called New York state children's services, which launched an investigation.
Spears, who had been staying with family in Kentucky, turned herself in to Westchester County police Tuesday after a sealed grand jury indictment was handed up and authorities obtained a warrant for her arrest.
"She really didn't show any emotion," Westchester Police Capt. Christopher Calabrese told CBS New York. "She was kind of stoic when she came here. I think that she knew the grand jury was going on. She anticipated this happening, and she turned herself in with her attorney."
Lacey and Garnett Spears lived the last year of the boy's short life at the Fellowship Community, an indyllic communal community in Chestnut Ridge, in Rockland County, where the mother cared for the elderly and farmed, and the boy attended private school.
One resident of the community has reportedly said Spears called her asking that she dispose of Garnett's feeding bag just before he died.
The Journal News, in a recent series on Spears, found that in the weeks and months before Garnett's death, and even his final days, she shared on Facebook, Twitter and a blog much of what she and her son went through.
The 26-year-old graduated from high school in Decatur, Ala., and studied nursing at a Calhoun Community College. She and her son left Decatur when he was about 2.
Spears is due back in court July 2.