Mother pleads guilty in Reedsburg fasting death case
A Nigerian native accepted responsibility Thursday for neglecting her 15-year-old son, who died in September following a weeks-long religious fast.
“I’m pleading guilty,” 48-year-old Titilayo A. Omosebi said during a hearing Thursday in Sauk County Circuit Court.
As part of a deal with prosecutors, Omosebi pleaded guilty to one felony count of child neglect resulting in death. She will be sentenced April 1, and faces up to 25 years of prison.
The Sauk County District Attorney’s Office agreed to dismiss a second child neglect charge related to her younger son, who was found emaciated in the family’s Reedsburg apartment but survived the ordeal.
Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Klicko ordered the Wisconsin Department of Corrections to conduct an investigation of Omosebi’s life history. That report is due in eight weeks, and is intended to assist the judge in determining an appropriate sentence.
Omosebi’s attorney, Michael Covey of Madison, said he has been in contact with some of his client’s family members in Nigeria. He is trying to arrange for them to submit letters to the court and possibly travel to the United States for the April 1 sentencing hearing.
Wearing an orange jail uniform, Omosebi spoke softly as she responded to the judge’s questions Thursday. She began to cry after entering the guilty plea, and wiped tears from her face as Covey placed his hand on her back.
“I’m actually very proud of Mrs. Omosebi today,” Covey said after the hearing. “She stepped up and she took 100 percent responsibility for her role in this tragedy. But she feels absolutely devastated by what happened.”
He said the incident was not an act of evil, but rather a “tragic, misguided act of religion.”
According to the criminal complaint, Omosebi’s husband, 50-year-old Kehinde S. Omosebi, walked to the Reedsburg Police Department on Sept. 3 to report their son’s death.
He told investigators he was a minister with Cornerstone Reformations Ministries and that the family had a desire to relocate from Reedsburg. They apparently were fasting until they received a “blessing from God.”
Police found the deceased boy inside the family’s unfurnished, padlocked Alexander Avenue apartment, according to the complaint. His 11-year-old brother was alive, and authorities allegedly confiscated an unsent letter the younger boy wrote to Sauk County attorneys in which he begged for help and said he would “probably die of hunger” if he didn’t eat.
Authorities have expressed skepticism about the father’s claim that he was a minister. Covey said Thursday that as far as he knows, the church consisted only of the Omosebi family.
He said the father decided to put the family on a fast and kept extending it, and that his client, the mother, was simply following orders. “She was obeying her husband, and she was participating in the fast herself,” Covey said, adding that the mother also nearly died.
The father also faces two charges of felony child neglect, and his case still is pending. A judge has ordered him to undergo a psychological exam to determine if he is competent to stand trial.