Osceola mom accused of murdering her 3-year-old child faces death penalty

The State Attorney’s Office for the Ninth Judicial Circuit has announced that it plans to seek the death penalty against an Osceola County woman accused of murdering her 3-year-old child and attempting to kill her spouse and 8-year-old child.

Joanne Zephir, 38, became eligible for the death penalty after a grand jury indicted her in February on a charge of first-degree murder with a weapon, which is a capital felony. She was also indicted on charges of attempted first-degree murder with a weapon and attempted felony murder with a weapon.

According to the indictment, Osceola County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Zephir on May 8, 2022, for allegedly stabbing her husband. She is also accused of forcing her two children, ages 3 and 8, to drink bleach hours after the stabbing incident had occurred.

Zephir then allegedly strangled her 3-year-old child to death.

The husband and 8-year-old child both survived after receiving treatment at a local hospital.

In a notice filed earlier this week, prosecutors stated that they decided to seek the death penalty in this case “based on statutory aggravators including the victim being younger than 12 years old, the victim of the capital felony being particularly vulnerable because the defendant stood in a position of familial or custodial authority over the victim and the capital felony being committed while the defendant was engaged in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, aggravated child abuse.”

In order to protect the integrity of the case against Zephir, the State Attorney’s Office stated that it is unable to provide any further comment.

Zephir was found competent to stand trial in December following a psychological evaluation. Her trial is currently scheduled to begin in July.  

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