A woman accused of killing her 5-year-old son by feeding him salt through a stomach tube calmly "watched and waited" for the poisoning to take effect, summoning help only after he began writhing and retching, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
In her opening statement at the murder trial of Lacey Spears, Assistant District Attorney Doreen Lloyd said Spears researched, planned, carried out and tried to cover up the killing of her blond, blue-eyed son, Garnett-Paul Spears, who died last year at a hospital in Westchester.
"Lacey Spears is not an innocent mother grieving the death of her son," the prosecutor said. "Lacey Spears is a calculating child killer who researched planned and executed the intentional poisoning of her son Garnett Spears with salt."
Spears, of Scottsville, Kentucky, had documented her son's declining health on social media. She wiped away a tear as the prosecutor spoke.
Defense lawyer Stephen Riebling told the jurors there are neither witnesses nor direct evidence that Spears poisoned her son. He stopped talking and tried to illustrate the point by exposing jurors to several seconds of silence.
"What you just heard -- that deafening silence -- that represents the sum total of the direct evidence in this case again Lacey Spears," Riebling said. "No eyewitness on the day of this alleged crime. No forensic evidence from the scene of this alleged crime and no answer to the question why."
Lloyd alleged Spears fed her son the salt in the bathroom of a Nyack Hospital room after he was admitted. The mother had told doctors he was having seizures.
Lloyd told jurors they would see hospital video showing mother and son twice going into the bathroom and then see Garnett Spears become ill soon afterward both times. He died of high sodium levels that caused swelling of the brain.
"This defendant was feeding her son salt. And not just a pinch of salt," Lloyd said. "A massive and deadly amount of salt."
But the bathroom is out of the range of the camera, and Riebling noted that no one saw Spears feed her son salt.
He said, in context, Spears' actions show a caring mother and implored the jurors to "set aside emotion."
"Lacey Spears did exactly as we want and expect parents in her position to do. She comforted Garnett," Riebling said.
Riebling also appeared to suggest the blame for the boy's death may fall on the hospital, near the Spears' Chestnut Ridge home, noting it was only there that a high sodium level was detected.
Garnett Spears' death ended a short life filled with doctor and hospital visits that his mother tirelessly documented in thousands of postings on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and a blog.
Many of the postings will be in evidence, along with Spears' online research into the dangers of sodium in children and hospital records from New York, Florida and Spears' native Alabama. Also in evidence is a feeding bag prosecutors believe was used to hold the salt -- and which they say she tried to hide after Garnett Spears' death.
As the 27-year-old Spears scribbled notes, making no eye contact with anyone in the courtroom, the prosecution ended its 90 minute opening, with a blunt allegation.
"She sits here no longer a mother, but a murderer," Lloyd said.
Defense attorneys have insisted that there will be no mention of Munchausen by proxy, a disorder in which caretakers secretly harm children to win sympathy. Some experts believe that disorder fits Spears' actions.
The trial is expected to last about six weeks. If convicted, Spears faces up to 20 years in prison.