Mom Who Allegedly Drowned Son Is Eligible for Death Penalty

Sherri Telnas is charged with 4 counts
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 3, 2019 10:30 AM CDT
The First Time She Tried to Drown Her Son, She Stopped
This June 29, 2019, police booking photo shows Sherri Telnas.   (Tulare County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

The son she tried to kill 11 years ago is dead and her other son is in a coma. It's possible she could be put on death row if convicted of the crime. The Visalia Times-Delta outlines Tulare County prosecutors' options in the case of Sherri Telnas, who was arrested Saturday after her sons were found in a California irrigation canal. A four-count complaint was filed against the 45-year-old on Tuesday. She's being charged with murder with the special circumstance of lying in wait, attempted murder causing great bodily injury, gassing, and battery on a peace officer. The lying in wait part of the murder charge makes Telnas eligible for death, though the prosecutors may be unable to seek it due to California's current moratorium on executions. The latest:

  • Telnas' 12-year-old son, Jackson, whom she tried to drown in 2008, is dead from drowning. Seven-year-old Jacob is in a coma tied to the brain injury he suffered, per the complaint. Another charge relates to Telnas' alleged attempt to flee from and resist arriving deputies.
  • KFSN reports that while being interviewed by a detective, Telnas allegedly hurled a cup holding spit, leading to the gassing charge.
  • KRTV reports Telnas alleged "bad thoughts and voices" led her to try to drown then-10-month-old Jackson in Montana's Clark Fork River, but she apparently stopped mid-attempt, performed CPR on the baby, and brought him to a hospital.
  • Telnas was sentenced to the custody of Montana health officials for a 10-year period in 2009. The AP reports she was released from probation five years later after her Montana parole officer determined that ending her supervision "will not present unreasonable risk of danger to the victim[s] of this offense."
  • But while still on probation in 2010 she got custody of her son. District Judge Ed McLean stated that Telnas and Jackson seemed to have a "very loving" relationship and cited a psychiatrist's assessment that he "had no concern about her ability to parent." McLean also noted that uncontested testimony about Jackson's father described him as unemployed and a regular drinker and pot smoker.
  • She reunited with Jackson's father and had Jacob in 2012. Ellie Brown, who's the wife of the boys' uncle, says Telnas had been parenting the boys alone for roughly a year.
(More California stories.)

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