Oklahoma mother found guilty of child abuse after faking son's illnesses for years

A jury last week found an Oklahoma mother guilty of two counts of child abuse after faking her son's illnesses for year, in what experts testified was likely a case of Munchausen syndrome by proxy.

The jury handed down the verdict on Nov. 17 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Federal prosecutors alleged that Kasie Keys spent years falsely claiming that her son, born in 2009, had trouble eating and was terminally ill.

Experts testified that Keys likely suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, NBC affiliate KFOR of Oklahoma City reported.

The condition manifests when "the caretaker of a child, most often a mother, either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it look like the child is sick," according to the National Institute of Health.

Court documents state that following Keys' 2012 divorce from the boy's father, she began telling her son's doctors that he was having trouble eating, using his hands, speaking and controlling his bowels.

The boy's father did not observe those symptoms, but physicians began diagnosing and treating the boy based on his mother's reports, according to court documents. The boy was eventually put on a feeding tube.

Later, the child was put on a total parenteral nutrition regimen, which consists of "liquid nutrients that is given to the patient through the veins intravenously and bypasses the stomach and intestines" and requires maintenance by caregivers, court documents state.

Keys kept the boy on that feeding regimen for nearly four years and failed to add the required vitamins and minerals to it, according to court documents. As a result, her son to be hospitalized for malnourishment and hair loss, among other issues.

She also failed to maintain his hygiene, putting him at risk of infection and leaving him in double diapers filled with urine and feces, prosecutors alleged. This led to his hospitalization for yeast in his blood, urinary tract infection and bacterial infections.

Kasie Keys (Cherokee County Jail, Tahlequah, Okla.)
Kasie Keys (Cherokee County Jail, Tahlequah, Okla.)

The trial followed an October 2021 indictment by a grand jury on six counts of child abuse and two counts of child neglect, to which Keys pleaded not guilty, court documents show.

The jury found Keys not guilty on the two charges of child neglect — which, according to the indictment, alleged that she failed to maintain the boy's feeding regimen and hygiene — and declared a mistrial on the other four charges of child abuse.

Notes from the foreperson filed with the court appear to indicate the jury struggled to reach a verdict, twice asking the judge what they should do if they could not come to an unanimous decision.

Child abuse in Oklahoma is punishable by up to life in prison.

Information on Keys' sentencing was not immediately available.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com