Hearing continued for Oregon mom accused of killing her son – Shaw Local

Sarah Safranek (top) appeared in court Wednesday afternoon via video from the Ogle County Correctional Center, She is charged with the murder of her 7-year-old son, Nathaniel. (Earleen Hinton/Shaw Media)
OREGON — An Oregon woman accused of killing her 7-year-old son in 2021, won’t have to appear in court again until February 2023 after an Ogle County Judge granted a defense request for a continuance.
Sarah Safranek, 35, appeared in Ogle County Court on Wednesday via a video conference from the Ogle County Correctional Center.
She has pleaded not guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and one count of aggravated battery for the suffocation death of her son, Nathaniel Burton in February 2021. On Nov. 3, Judge John Redington ruled she was fit to stand trial for the offenses after reviewing a mental health evaluation requested by the defense.
On Wednesday, Ogle County Public Defender Kathleen Isley asked for the continuance noting that she and another public defender were planning on meeting with Safranek again next week.
“I am scheduled to meet with Ms. Safranek next week. We are asking for a further status for a Feb. 15 hearing,” Isley. said.
Ogle County State’s Attorney Mike Rock did not object to the continuance.
“Without objection this cause will be continued to Feb. 15 at 1 p.m.,” said Redington. “Ms. Safranek, be sure to stay in contact with your attorney, OK?”
“Yes,” replied Safranek.
Nathaniel, a first grade student at Oregon Elementary School, was found unresponsive and not breathing in his bed at his home in the 400 block of South 10th Street about 2:30 a.m. Feb. 17, 2021,. He was pronounced dead at KSB Hospital in Dixon later that day.
An autopsy showed the boy also suffered a ruptured liver.
Safranek was arrested two months later, on April 21, and indicted May 4, 2021. She pleaded not guilty on May 6, 2021 and remains in jail on a $2 million bond.
She faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of murder and six to 30 years if convicted of aggravated battery.
According to records obtained by Shaw Media in a Freedom of Information Act, the Department of Children and Family Services had visited the Safranek/Burton household nearly a dozen times over the course of two years, following up on five separate 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.
According to the DCFS timeline:
• When the first report was made, on Sept. 8, 2018, Nathaniel was living with his mother, his father, Bryan Burton, and two older half-sisters, then both younger than 10. (DCFS does not reveal who made the complaints.)
The first time, both parents were investigated for “substantial risk of physical injury/environment injurious to health and welfare by neglect; inadequate supervision; cuts, bruises, welts abrasions and oral Injuries; and substantial risk of physical injury/environment Injurious to health and welfare.”
DCFS investigators were unable to make contact with the family that day, but came back to the home 3 days later, and again on Oct. 31, observed all three children, and found “no signs of abuse or neglect and the children were assessed as safe in the care of their mother for both visits.”
The case was closed on Nov. 5, 2018, and the family was “referred for community-based services.”
• On Feb. 15, 2019, another report was made to DCFS, this one naming one of the girls, then 7, as the victim. Both parents again were investigated for cuts, bruises, welts abrasions and oral Injuries. Both girls were observed at school and interviewed; both had scratches, which one said was caused by their cat, one had a rash; both denied either parent hurting them.
On Feb. 25, investigators talked with Nathaniel, who had “no visible signs of abuse or neglect.”
All three children were observed again on April 15, and the case was deemed unfounded and closed the next day.
• Three days later, on April 18, 2019, another report as made that the three children were being victimized, and Safranek was investigated for neglect.
An investigator visited that day and saw no signs of abuse or neglect. The DCFS returned June 12 and talked with Nathaniel, and June 17 and talked with all three children. The case was determined to be unfounded and closed that day.
Again, the family was referred for community-based services.
• On Aug. 5, a report was made alleging Nathaniel was being victimized. Both parents again were investigated for neglect, as well as inadequate supervision by leaving the boy alone “at home, outside or in the community” and “in the care of an inadequate caregiver.”
DCFS tried but failed to make contact with the family that day.
• Two days later, on Aug. 7, another report was made, this one listing all three children. Again, Safranek was investigated for neglect; an investigator saw no signs that day, or 4 days later, on Aug. 11. By then, the girls were living with their biological father.
All three children were visited one more time, on Sept. 25, in their respective homes.
No visible signs of abuse or neglect were observed, and the case was closed on Oct. 2, with a third referral to community based services.
The final investigation was made on Feb. 17, when the agency received the report of Nathaniel’s death. It notes the girls were with their father and not home when Nathaniel died; They were interviewed two days later.
According to the sixth and final report included on the timeline, dated Feb. 19, 2021:
“Investigator visited with the two surviving siblings of Nathaniel, observing and interviewing them. The two children were aware that Nathaniel is deceased.
“There were no noted visible signs of abuse or neglect, but T.P [now 11] did admit that she had witnessed their mother (being) abusive to Nathaniel in the past when she lived with mom.
Kathleen Schultz contributed to this story.
Earleen oversees production and content of 9 community weeklies and has worked for Shaw Newspapers since 1985.
Copyright © 2022 Shaw Local News Network
Copyright © 2022 Shaw Local News Network


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