WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Lacey Spears was first and foremost a mom, doting to the point of obsession over her blond, blue-eyed son, Garnett, in sickness and in health.
There was plenty of sickness.
In the first year of his short life, Spears told friends on social media, Garnett was in the hospital 23 times, once for five weeks.
Her online circle cried with her at news of another hospitalization, rejoiced with her as they saw the sickly boy grow, offered prayers and support. They followed on Facebook as Spears moved in 2010 from her hometown Decatur, Ala., to Clearwater, Fla., where she and "G" — as he was known — lived with Spears' grandmother for a brief, idyllic time. In 2012, she moved Garnett north, to the secluded Fellowship Community in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., saying she hoped the close-to-the-earth living would be the answer to the boy's chronic health issues. She wrote a blog, "Garnett's Journey," subtitled "Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it." On it, she chronicled hospital stays and the loss of her soulmate, Garnett's daddy, Blake.
On Jan. 19, 5-year-old Garnett was airlifted from Nyack Hospital to Westchester Medical Center, where doctors found extreme levels of sodium in the boy's system, even as Spears shared photos of him on life support. He died Jan. 23. Before he died, Westchester County, N.Y., police, the district attorney and Ramapo, N.Y., police began an investigation.
The focus of the probe is Spears, who police suspect may have fed potentially life-threatening amounts of salt to her son in a case of Munchausen by proxy, a psychiatric disorder that leads a parent to sicken a child to seek sympathy or attention.
As Garnett lay dying in Westchester Medical Center, Spears phoned a friend at the Fellowship and asked her to get rid of one of the bags she used to feed Garnett through a tube in his abdomen. Police later seized the bag, which sources say contained a high concentration of sodium.
The medical examiner has yet to rule on the cause of Garnett's death. If Spears is charged, it would be one of the first such trials in the age of social media, a tool that gave Spears a broad and eager audience for her parenting travails: She was a fixture on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Spears has denied doing anything to harm her son, and her lawyer, David Sachs, has declined to comment.
The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News spent nine days in Alabama and Florida talking with people who know Spears, trying to unravel the mystery of what happened to Garnett. What becomes clear in these conversations is that Spears' world centered entirely on the boy. Some saw her as a great mom, attentive and caring. She worshiped Garnett, wouldn't let him out of her sight.
But when she trusted someone to hear her story, they'd often hear a tale that wouldn't bear scrutiny.
Spears, it turns out, has a problem with the truth.
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