A Sauk County judge Thursday sentenced a Nigerian woman to three years in prison for failing to help her son during a religious fast that ended his life.
“I was not careful enough to see these consequences,” 48-year-old Titilayo A. Omosebi said softly as she read from a prepared statement just before learning her sentence. “This was a very tragic mistake on my part and I am very sorry.”
Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Klicko gave Omosebi 220 days credit for time already served, and ordered that she serve three years of probation upon her release from prison. She also must undergo any counseling and treatment recommended by her corrections agent.
Prosecutors charged Omosebi and her husband, Kehinde S. Omosebi, 50, with two counts of felony child neglect after their 15-year-old son starved to death in September. Police found their other son, who was 11 at the time, emaciated in the family’s Reedsburg apartment. Titilayo Omosebi pleaded guilty in December to to child neglect resulting in death.
Following a mental exam by a doctor, a judge deemed the Kehinde Omosebi competent to stand trial. His case is pending.
Authorities say the family hoped to relocate from the area and began a weeks-long fast at the father’s direction in order to receive a blessing from God. The parents participated in the fast along with the children.
A state corrections officer who completed an examination of Titilayo Omosebi’s life history recommended a sentence of five years prison and three years of probation.
Noting the complexities of the case — including Omosebi’s sincere remorse and low risk of re-offending — Sauk County District Attorney Kevin Calkins on Thursday recommended a slightly lower sentence of three years prison and three years of probation.
Although Omosebi was not the person directing the fast, Calkins said, prison time was justified because she failed to exercise her responsibility to help her child.
Omosebi’s attorney, Michael Covey of Madison, expressed worry about how his client, a soft-spoken and submissive individual, might fare in prison. He said locking her away would essentially be “warehousing her,” and would not bring her child back to life.
Covey requested a sentence of probation with a modest jail stay until correction officials could relocate her.
Just prior to handing down her sentence Thursday, Klicko said she accepted Omosebi’s apology and believed she truly was remorseful.
“I do believe it is true,” she said. “I do believe it is heartfelt.”
Although she said Omosebi did not likely pose a threat to the public, Klicko said some level of punishment was necessary considering the case resulted in a child’s death. She accepted the recommendation of prosecutors.
Covey said following Thursday’s hearing that he was grateful Klicko considered all arguments, but that he still believed his client should not go to prison.
Despite the serious and tragic nature of the case, Covey said, Omosebi’s heartfelt remorse and acceptance of responsibility justified a sentence of probation. He said she was distraught after Thursday’s hearing.
“She is of course very upset and remorseful for her son,” Covey said. “And that’s where her focus is. Her focus is not on her sentence. Her focus is on her family.”
A foster family has taken in the surviving son, and child protection services will determine whether he may have contact with his mother going forward.