OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – An Osceola County mother accused of forcing her children, 3 and 8, to drink bleach before trying to kill herself outside a Poinciana church earlier this month is now facing a premeditated murder charge, according to the sheriff’s office.
Joanna Zephir, 36, was arrested on an outstanding warrant on May 8 after deputies found her and two children in a car outside Poinciana Pentecostal Church of God. The sheriff’s office said the toddler was unconscious in the vehicle. The woman and children were taken to the hospital, where the 3-year-old died, officials said.
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The sheriff’s office said Zephir was previously charged with attempted murder and aggravated child abuse, but the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office determined the 3-year-old’s cause of death was compression of the neck. An arrest warrant was obtained Monday for the woman on a premeditated murder charge.
Deputies said Zephir forced both children to drink bleach from a makeshift glass, in addition to choking her toddler.
“The suspect said the reason for doing this to her children is because (someone) must have put a voodoo spell on her, making her harm her children,” Sheriff Marcos Lopez said during a news conference.
Zephir is being held on no bond at the Osceola County jail.