Judge: Michigan woman accused of torturing, starving son competent to stand trial

A Michigan woman is competent to stand trial for her role in the death of her 15-year-old son, who was allegedly subjected to ice baths while malnourished, a judge has ruled.

A Muskegon County judge issued the ruling Thursday following a competency hearing for Shanda Vander Ark, 43. The Norton Shores woman faces charges of open murder and first-degree child abuse in her son’s death.

Vander Ark’s next court hearing is a preliminary exam hearing set for Jan. 4, 2023.

She is accused of torturing and starving Timothy Ferguson, who weighed 69 pounds when he was found dead in July, the Muskegon Chronicle reported.

A medical examiner determined the boy died from a combination of malnourishment and hypothermia.

Vander Ark and one of her other sons, Paul Ferguson, 20, allegedly tortured Timothy Ferguson in various ways that contributed to his death. Prosecutors said the mother and son subjected the boy to ice baths as punishment, restrained him with shackles and zip ties, and deprived him of food.

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Timothy Ferguson had some mental disabilities, did not attend school and was instead being homeschooled, prosecutors have said.

Paul Ferguson faces one count of first-degree child abuse in his sibling’s death. His next court appearance is a status conference scheduled for Dec. 8.