Oregon mother accused of killing her son withdraws guilty plea

Sarah Safranek is escorted into an Ogle County courtroom on Tuesday, March 12, 2024.

OREGON – An Oregon mother accused of killing her 7-year-old son by suffocating him in their family home in February 2021 has withdrawn her guilty plea.

Sarah Safranek, 37, entered a guilty plea March 27 to one court of first-degree murder, but on Tuesday Safranek’s attorney, Ogle County Public Defender Kathleen Isley, filed a motion to withdraw that plea.

“The defendant did not knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waive her rights to trial, as she was not properly admonished,” Isley wrote in the motion.

Judge John Redington granted the motion Wednesday. A pretrial motion hearing was set for June 28. and a jury trial is now scheduled for Aug. 12, said Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock.

Safranek, who has been held in the Ogle County Correctional Center since her arrest in April 2021, is charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery. She was arrested April 21, 2021, and indicted May 4, 2021. She pleaded not guilty May 6, 2021.

Nathaniel was a first-grade student at Oregon Elementary School. He was found unresponsive and not breathing at 2:30 a.m. Feb. 17, 2021, in his bed at home in the 400 block of South 10th Street. He was pronounced dead later that day at KSB Hospital in Dixon.

According to records obtained by Shaw Local News Network in a Freedom of Information Act request, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services visited the household about a dozen times over two years, following up on five reports of suspected abuse and neglect. Each time, DCFS closed the case after finding no indications of parental wrongdoing. Nathaniel was 4 when the allegations first surfaced.

Before her plea hearing, Safranek appeared in court March 12, at which time Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock and Isley agreed on the week of July 8 for her jury trial.

On Nov. 3, 2022, Redington ruled that Safranek was fit to stand trial after reviewing a mental health evaluation requested by the defense. Defense attorneys had asked Redington to approve an additional expert to “review and evaluate mental health records” of Safranek, including her condition at the time of the alleged crime.

They argued that extensive mental health records were provided by the state and revealed a “substantial history of mental health issues, mental illness and related services.”

Redington only agreed to have Jayne Braden review Safranek’s history of “mental health issues.” Braden, a forensic and clinical psychologist in Sycamore, was the court-appointed expert who conducted Safranek’s first evaluation when she was charged.

Safranek has claimed that she has mental and physical issues that are not being treated properly at the jail and, in a previous motion, her attorneys argued that she was not getting sufficient medical attention while in custody.

Earleen Hinton

Earleen Hinton

Earleen creates content and oversees production of 8 community weeklies. She has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.