Osceola County sheriff: Mom choked 3-year-old daughter, forced kids to drink bleach

Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez said his agency intends to recommend murder and child abuse charges against a mother who allegedly forced her children to drink bleach over Mother's Day weekend in an apparent murder-suicide attempt, which resulted in the death of one of her children.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon Sheriff Lopez told reporters that Joanne Zephir, 36, admitted to deputies that she forced her children – a 3-year-old and 8-year-old – to drink bleach.

She also drank bleach, according to the sheriff's office. 

Deputies say Zephir and her 3-year-old daughter were found unconscious in her car on Sunday morning in the parking lot near a church on Old Pleasant Hill Road near Poinciana. Her 8-year-old child was found in the roadway near the church.

RELATED: 1 child dead, 1 hospitalized after woman found unconscious near Osceola County church, deputies say

All three were taken to a local hospital where the youngest child died. The older child was treated, released, and is now in the care of family members, Sheriff Lopez said.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, Orange County deputies previously issued an alert looking for a woman who was suspected of aggravated battery. They tracked the woman's cell phone before finding them.

(FOX 35 Orlando)

Details on the Orange County case have not been released at this time. 

The mother claims a family member "must have put a voodoo spell on her, making her harm her children," Sheriff Lopez said. 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Osceola County jail records show Zephir is being held on an Orange County warrant.  Sheriff Lopez said the agency will file additional charges after toxicology results are concluded on the deceased child.