After a months-long investigation, an Alabama mom has been charged with murder: Prosecutors in Westchester County, NY, say Lacey Spears poisoned her 5-year-old son through a feeding tube, likely in an effort to gain sympathy on social media. She "was intentionally feeding her son salt in toxic levels," said a district attorney in court yesterday, where Spears pleaded not guilty. Her charges include second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter; prosecutors aren't arguing that she meant to kill her son Garnett, but they say she behaved without regard for his life, the Journal News reports. There was no medical explanation when his sodium levels soared, and prosecutors say Spears had done online research into how salt affects one's health, CBS 2 reports.
The case may be among the first to grapple with the psychiatric disorder Munchausen by proxy in the Internet age: Spears posted updates about her son's frequent illnesses on Facebook. She told friends he needed to be fed through a tube, but they regularly saw him eat solid foods. Police believe Spears may have poisoned him more than once, and the investigation began even before he died on Jan. 23. When he did, she initially got sympathy, the Journal News notes. But some who know her now tell the paper they're not surprised at the charges. "I really wish we could have prevented this because there were signs," says one. "She put all over Facebook how wonderful she was. She had us all snowed." The murder charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life. Click for more on the lies Spears reportedly told.