A woman threw up all over a courtroom while being shown grim images of her skeletal disabled son she starved to death.
Shanda Vander Ark, 44, was standing before a jury in Michigan, US, for the torture and murder of Timothy Ferguson, 15. An autopsy had found Timothy died from hypothermia and malnourishment at Vander Ark’s home on July 6, 2022.
Timothy had autism with speech motor impairment, and was tortured relentlessly by his own mother who used to feed him bread covered in hot sauce and forced him into ice baths as a punishment.
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The prosecutor Matt Roberts showed Vander Ark pictures of the poor teenager’s body on Thursday morning and she started to retch. Prosecutor Roberts asked: “Did he look like that when you put him in the bathtub?”
After vomiting out of view of the jury, Vander Ark apologised to the court and asked for a moment while beginning to weep. The day afterwards the jury found Vander Ark – who had five biological children – guilty of the torture and murder of her son Timothy. She is due to be sentenced on January 29 and faces life in prison.
Next to the stand was Timothy’s older brother Paul, 20, who has been charged with first degree child abuse, but testified against their mother in court. “I'd say it's something close to Stockholm Syndrome,” Paul said while referring to his mum. “I desire to find a role model that, due to my own low self-esteem, I would do anything to make them proud of me.”
A text message exchange between Paul and Vander Ark illustrated the sick mum questioning whether they should drop hot sauce on Timothy’s genitals. “I wonder how it would feel to have that hot sauce on your private parts. I'm not saying touch him there, not at all, but dripping a little bit there, is that horrible,” she had written.
Vander Ark agreed to relinquish custody in 2012 to avoid a permanent severing of parental rights. Court documents showed Timothy, Paul, Nolan, 23, and daughter Millie, 19, were granted to their father Eric Ferguson.
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