Muskegon, MI

Shanda Vander Ark: mother found competent in murder trial for son who died of malnourishment and hypothermia

Lavinia Thompson

The trial against a mother accused of torturing and starving her 15-year-old handicapped son will proceed after she was found competent to stand trial this week, MLive reports.

Shanda Vander Ark, 43, allegedly had a history of abusing her son, Timothy Ferguson, and had been previously substantiated for child abuse in a 2012 divorce before Timothy was found dead in her home back in July 2022, 13 On Your Side reported at the time, citing court documents.

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Shanda Vander ArkPhoto byMuskegon County Jail

On July 6, 2022, police responded to a call at 6:37 a.m. to Vander Ark’s home in Muskegon, Michigan, where a male teenager was found dead, according to a press release from the Norton Shores Police Department (NSPD).

Timothy weighed only 69 pounds at the time of his death, and police found evidence that he suffered long-term malnourishment and abuse, the release says.

Vander Ark faces open murder and first-degree child abuse charges, and underwent a competency evaluation to determine whether she was mentally fit to comprehend the court process and able to engage with her defense team, WOOD-TV previously reported.

Dr. Sushma Chandramouli, MD, performed the evaluation, and determined that Vander Ark “did not demonstrate any cognitive impairment” during the evaluation, MLive says.

“In my opinion, Ms. Vander Ark was aware of the charges against her, how they came about, and provided a consistent version of how events unfolded from her perspective,” Dr. Chandramouli added.

Vander Ark is accused of feeding her disabled son “nothing but bread and bread soaked in hot sauce and hot sauce poured down the child’s throat and placing the child in an ice bath,” said Matt Roberts, chief trial attorney for the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office, according to MLive.

A medical examiner determined Timothy’s cause of death to be malnourishment and hypothermia, MLive states.

One of Vander Ark’s other sons, Paul Ferguson, has also been charged in connection with Timothy’s death, MLive says. In July, text messages from Timothy’s 20-year-old brother, Paul Ferguson, were revealed, discussing details of severe punishments, including self-induced vomiting, excessive exercise, and starvation, according to MLive.

Paul has also been charged with first-degree child abuse, though the 7-year-old living in the home appeared to suffer no abuse, MLive says.

A preliminary hearing for Vander Ark is scheduled for Jan. 4, 2023, MLive reports. Paul Ferguson is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 8, 2022 for a status conference, MLive says.

More on this case here.

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Long time true crime lover and blogger who has spent years reading and studying criminal psychology. I also write mystery fiction books, and have a diploma in journalism.

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