OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — A Florida woman claimed a “voodoo spell” made her harm her children, with one of them fatally ingesting bleach, according to police investigating the death of a 3-year-old and injuries of an 8-year-old.
The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office says they were dispatched to the parking lot of Poinciana Pentecostal Church on Mother’s Day in reference to a possible homicide.
Deputies found a woman, 36-year-old Joanne Zephir, unconscious in the front seat of a vehicle. Her 3-year-old daughter was found unconscious in a car seat, and her 8-year-old child was found in the roadway by the entrance to the church. A bottle of bleach was also found inside the vehicle.
According to Osceola County Sheriff Marcos R. Lopez, the 3-year-old died at the hospital, and the older child was treated and released to family.
Zephir, who was already wanted for attempted murder and aggravated battery in neighboring Orange County, allegedly told a family member she was going to turn herself in on those charges but wanted to spend time with her children first and took them from a family member’s home.
Investigators say Zephir called a relative several hours later to tell them she killed the 3-year-old and the 8-year-old would die as well. She also planned on taking her own life.
Police were called and were able to detain Zephir before she fatally harmed the 8-year-old or herself.
When questioned, Zephir admitted she made both children drink bleach and also choked the 3-year-old, according to investigators. She claimed a voodoo spell to make her hurt her children had been put on her by the victim in the Orange County attempted murder case.
Zephir was arrested for attempted murder and aggravated child abuse in Osceola County.
“We’re waiting for the medical examiner office’s findings before we file the actual murder charges on behalf of the death of the child,” said Sheriff Lopez.
According to police, Zephir also confessed to the attempted murder in Orange County. Details have not been made available about that case.