Court records show Shanda Vander Ark received a life sentence for murder and 50 to 100 years for first-degree child abuse for killing her son, Timothy Ferguson. She was convicted of the charges in December.
Vander Ark was arrested in July 2022 after Norton Shores Police Department officers were called to her home for a death investigation. Officers found Ferguson deceased and said he "appeared to be extremely malnourished and there was evidence of abuse." Vander Ark was arrested on a count of open murder.
According to WOOD-TV, Ferguson weighed only 69 pounds when he died. Judge Matthew Kacel compared the teen to "a Holocaust victim" because he looked so sickly. Vander Ark reportedly only let her son eat bread soaked in hot sauce or plain bread. She also made him drink hot sauce and forced him into an ice bath one day before he died.
The medical examiner determined Ferguson died from emaciation.
Prosecutors reportedly said Ferguson had "some sort of incapacity or mental incapacity."
Vander Ark’s 21-year-old son, Paul Ferguson, has also been charged with child abuse. WOOD reports prosecutors argue Paul Ferguson "had some culpability" in his brother’s death.
Judge Kacel said at the sentencing, "I’ve been trying now for this entire case to wrap my mind around how somebody could do something so horrific, not only to another human being but to their own child."
He told her, "You intentionally and systematically tortured this child. Let’s call it what it is: It’s torture. You tortured this child."