Sandra Michelle Jackson, 25, of Avon Park, Fla. was found guilty in a Highlands County Circuit Court on June 20 of the aggravated manslaughter of her nine-month-old son, Milo Rupert, who died from neglect and malnutrition while under Jackson’s care. Although initially charged with child neglect and manslaughter, the jury could only convict her of either neglect or manslaughter, but not both. The neglect charges were dropped in order to pursue the more serious manslaughter charge.
Both Jackson and the victim’s father, 22-year-old Kyle Lee Marsh Rupert, were both charged initially with two counts of child neglect without great harm, one count of child neglect with great harm and aggravated manslaughter, according to The Tampa Tribune. Jackson and Rupert pleaded not guilty to those charges in February 2013.
It took officials six months after finding baby Milo dead in the couple’s apartment on July 7, 2012 to arrest Jackson and Rupert. Police say that the couple’s other three children also appeared malnourished. The surviving kids were also covered with insect bites. The couple lived with their children in squalor, with police reporting that “they found trash throughout the house, food on the floors and an infestation of cockroaches.”
Following Friday’s closing arguments at Jackson’s trial, the jury deliberated for less than two hours before rendering their conviction, according to Highlands Today. During her trial, prosecutors said that the Florida mother watched and did nothing as her children lived in squalid conditions in a filthy apartment and grew skinnier and skinnier with each passing day.
The father testified at Jackson’s trial, saying that while feeding Milo apple sauce on the day he died, the baby broke the bottle’s nipple allowing him to eat too much of the apple sauce. Milo died because his shrunken stomach ruptured from ingesting the apple sauce. His stomach was shrunken because he hadn’t been fed for the two days prior to eating the apple sauce, according to Assistant State Attorney Richard Castillo. Jackson’s lawyer contended that
… Rupert was responsible for Milo’s death. While agreeing with Castillo that the boyfriend didn’t intend to kill the child, he suggested that Rupert either fed Milo too much apple sauce, or strangled or smothered him to get him to stop crying so he could play video games.
Rupert had already pleaded guilty to his charges and was sentenced to 24 years behind bars. Jackson’s sentencing on her manslaughter charge will be scheduled for a future date.