State to seek death penalty for Central Florida mom accused of making kids drink bleach, killing 1

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. — Prosecutors with the State Attorney’s Office for Orange and Osceola Counties filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty Monday in the case against Joanne Zephir.


Osceola County deputies arrested Zephir, now 38, in May of 2022 after they said she stabbed her husband before forcing her three and eight-year-old children to drink bleach, then strangled the three-year-old to death.

The husband and the eight-year-old were treated at a local hospital and survived.

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A grand jury indicted Zephir in February on a capital-level felony of first-degree murder with a weapon, making her eligible for the death penalty.

The grand jury also returned indictments charging Zephir with attempted first-degree murder with a weapon and attempted felony murder with a weapon.

In their notice to seek the death penalty, prosecutors said they took into account the victim’s age and Zephir’s status as a “familial or custodial authority” over them.

Zephir is due in court on Wednesday for a pre-trial hearing. Her trial is currently scheduled to start in mid-July.

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The investigation began on Mother’s Day in 2022 when deputies say Zephir called a family member to say she had killed her three-year-old child and that her eight-year-old was about to die.

Investigators were able to track Zephir’s phone to a park in the area of Old Pleasant Hill Road in the Poinciana area.

When deputies arrived, they found Zephir unconscious inside the car with her three-year-old child and the eight-year-old unconscious near the roadway.

All three were taken to a hospital, but the three-year-old did not survive.

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Investigators said Zephir told them a voodoo spell made her harm her children.

She’s been in the Osceola County jail on no bond since her arrest in 2022.

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