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In the early morning hours of June 16, 2015, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, passing motorists spotted a vehicle burning in a ditch on the side of the road. 33-year-old Narges Shafeirad was lying outside of the car, severely burned and screaming that her son was trapped in the backseat. When firefighters arrived, they were dismayed to find 5-year-old Daniel Dana burned beyond recognition.

Shafeirad claimed that she was taking her son to Ocean City, Maryland for a surprise beach trip, and had packed two gallons of gasoline in the back seat for fear of running out of gas along the way. Then, temporarily forgetting about the tanks in her car, she lit a cigarette. While it appeared to be a tragic accident, Shafeirad’s story quickly fell apart when medical examiners discovered her son did not have soot in his lungs, and that his actual cause of death was not the fire as she claimed, but diphenhydramine poisoning. Even worse still, Daniel had suffered several cuts and abrasions to his face, indicating that his mother had force fed him the fatal dose of medicine.

On February 27, 2017, Shafeirad was sentenced to fifty years in prison, citing divorce, a bitter custody battle, and depression as reasons for brutally ending her only son’s life. Prosecutors believe that Shafeirad murdered her son as revenge against her ex-husband. Daniel Dana was a bright kindergartner who enjoyed fishing with his father and playing guitar. Hamid Dana, Daniel’s father, amid the terror of the long trial, recalls a time that Daniel told him to be strong: “‘Daddy, I’m strong. You be strong.'”

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