Mother Pleads Guilty in Starvation Death of Son with Severe Disability

Mother Pleads Guilty in Starvation Death of Son with Severe Disability July 18, 2019

A Virginia mother pleaded guilty in the starvation death of her 13-year-old son. Amy FaJohn accepted a plea agreement after police found her teenage son dead at her home in 2018. Jalen Goldsborough weighed only 24 pounds at the time of his death.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, authorities arrived at the home of Amy FaJohn in September 2018. When police arrived at the scene, they found the boy severely malnourished with sunken eyes. The boy was bloated, and his skin was pale and dry. Additionally, he was covered with clothes, blankets, and a hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face.

Jalen Goldsborough became severely disabled in 2004 after his father shook him violently. The child suffered severe brain damage and relied on caregivers to assist him in every aspect of life. The boy could not walk, talk, eat or move on his own. Charles Byron Goldsborough, II, pleaded guilty to aggravated malicious wounded. The court sentenced him to 50 years in prison.

Since the boy’s injury, his mother Amy FaJohn cared for him along with his siblings. Initially, the boy was able to eat by mouth. However, doctors placed a feeding tube when he became unable to take a bottle as an infant. FaJohn was tasked with ensuring her son was fed by tube, managed his medical care, and ensured he went to the doctor.

FaJohn admitted that she stopped feeding the boy every day. Instead, she decided to feed him every other day. There were times she said could not recall the number of days he went without food. According to FaJohn’s attorney, the stress of caring for her son made her depressed and isolated. The mother admitted that she spent much of her time playing video games rather than caring for her son.

Eventually, the boy became so dehydrated; he died from malnutrition. When FaJohn realized her son was dead, she fled her home. FaJohn sent a text message to her mother that said it was “all her fault.”  Detectives found a note in her home that FaJohn wrote to her mother. The letter read, “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Police arrested FaJohn and charged her with first-degree murder. During interviews with police, she admitted to not feeding her son every day. She blamed her neglect on the fact that feeding caused her son to become bloated and uncomfortable. Doctors provided instructions to disconnect her son’s feeding tube when he became bloated and flush the line.

However, FaJohn did not follow their orders. Instead, she stopped feeding her son altogether. As her son’s health deteriorated, she kept family and friends from her home. People close to her had no idea the boy was so malnourished. FaJohn sent them older photos of her son to hide his condition. The mother could not recall the last time she took her son to the doctor.

Following her arrest, she agreed to a deal with prosecutors earlier this month. FaJohn agreed to plead no-contest to second-degree murder. In court, her attorney told the court that the stress of raising a child with a severe disability caused FaJohn to suffer serious depression.

“Ms. FaJohn spent most of her days and nights at home, alone with Jalen and sometimes the other children. She experienced the enormous stress that goes along with that sort of isolation and duty, and experienced depression and suicidal thoughts,” attorney Matthew Steward told the court.

While FaJohn blamed her son’s death on depression, prosecutors were not convinced. During the hearing, the prosecutor argued that FaJohn her actions were wrong.

“FaJohn would not even allow them in the house,” the prosecutor said. “When FaJohn would send pictures of the children, it was believed that she would send older pictures of Jalen — thereby hiding his deteriorating physical condition.”

In court, FaJohn cried, and attornies read a statement by her.

“Hate me, I know you will, [but] please don’t take it out on [the two other] kids,” wrote FaJohn, who wept in court Wednesday as a prosecutor summarized the case against her. “I am so sorry to everyone.”

According to court records, FaJohn will be sentenced on August 13 for her crime. The boy’s father Charles Byron Goldsborough is eligible for parole in 2022.

While caring for a child with a disability can pose considerable challenges to the family, that is not an excuse to not feed a child. Jalen Goldsborough was a defenseless boy that relied on his mother to care for his every need. His father destroyed his life at 17-days-old.

Even if the mother felt guilty for his injuries, she had no right to refuse to care for her son. If she needed help, she should have reached out for support. According to the family, many people wanted to be a part of the boy’s life.

Instead, the mother blamed the stress and used that as an excuse to starve her son to death slowly. He developed bedsores because FaJohn failed to reposition him. Jalen Goldsborough deserved so much more than the world offered him.

May the sweet boy rest in peace.

*Katie Joy is a columnist and hosts Without A Crystal Ball on Patheos Non-Religious Channel. She writes articles on parenting, disability advocacy, debunking pseudoscience, atheism, and crimes against women and children.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Cozmo the Magician

    Put her in a cell. Lock the door, melt the key. Weld the door shut. But let anybody send all the ‘thoughts & prayers’ they want.

  • Delta

    “In court, her attorney told the court that the stress of raising a child with a severe disability caused FaJohn to suffer serious depression.”

    Yeah, then imagine the stress of being a disabled child, dependent on someone who refuses to take care of you.

    Depression is hard, and makes it harder to do basic things. That much is true. But this just sounds like a way for her to blame the murder on the victim — if not for his disability, she wouldn’t have been depressed, and she wouldn’t have killed him!

    I’m reminded of cases where autistic people were murdered, and the coverage immediately rushes to the defense of the killers — she was such a loving mother; you shouldn’t judge him unless you’ve walked a mile in his shoes; etc.

    I’m reminded of the Autism $peaks video where Jodie Singer’s mother talked about how she nearly murdered Jodie, and only spared her because of how the murder would affect Jodie’s non-autistic sister. She said this right in front of Jodie. And the interview was used to show how hard people like Jodie are on their families and the people around them.