Michigan woman charged with murder, abuse in death of malnourished son

Shanda Vander Ark (WOOD-TV)

MUSKEGON, Mich. – A woman charged with the murder and child abuse of her malnourished 15-year-old son subjected him to ice baths that contributed to his death, a prosecutor said Friday.

Shanda Vander Ark, 43, of Norton Shores was arraigned on open murder and first-degree child abuse charges in the death Wednesday of Timothy Ferguson. A judge denied bond for her.

The medical examiner determined the boy died from a combination of malnourishment and hypothermia, said Matt Roberts, a deputy Muskegon County prosecutor.

The hypothermia was due to ice baths Vander Ark subjected her son to to as punishment, including one on Tuesday, Roberts said.

Vander Ark called police to the home after discovering her son dead, Roberts said.

“The investigation subsequently revealed that Shanda Vander Ark had a number of punishments … that frankly were just beyond the pale in terms of what should be administered to a child,” Roberts said. “Most notably, the denial of food to the child, feeding the child 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.”

Vander Ark said rocked back and forth in her chair during the arraignment and cried out when the murder charge was announced.

The victim had some mental disabilities and did not attend school, instead being home-schooled, Roberts told MLive/Muskegon Chronicle.

The boy’s father lives in Florida, Roberts said.