Last week, Yolo County jurors said a woman acted willfully and deliberately when she drowned her 5-year-old daughter last fall. On Tuesday, they said she was sane when she did it.
In announcing their second verdict in the trial of Aquelin Talamantes, jurors rejected the woman’s plea of insanity. After only about two hours of deliberations in the sanity phase, they decided Talamantes should serve out her punishment in prison, rather than receiving treatment in a state mental facility.
Talamantes, 29, faces a term of 25 years to life when she is sentenced July 7 by Superior Court Judge Stephen L. Mock. She will be eligible for parole.
On Friday, jurors announced they found the woman guilty of first-degree murder in connection with the Sept. 26 death of her daughter, Tatiana Garcia. Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredericksen had sought a finding of second-degree murder on the grounds that Talamantes was not mentally stable when she committed the crime. The sanity phase of the trial began that afternoon.
Talamantes drowned Tatiana in her oldest sister’s Davis home, where she and her children were temporarily staying. She then packed the girl’s body in the trunk of her car and drove to another sister’s apartment in Sacramento’s Pocket neighborhood. When the oldest sister returned home and Tatiana couldn’t be found, she notified police, who met Talamantes at the Pocket Road apartment complex. Officers found the girl in the trunk and tried to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
During the trial, Fredericksen presented evidence that showed Talamantes had struggled with her mental health in the months leading up to the drowning, on several occasions being seen and diagnosed by professionals. In April, Talamantes had been admitted to the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center for several days.
Fredericksen argued that Talamantes’ molestation as a child, the murder of her mother when she was just 11 years old and abuse by the father of her children had left her mentally unstable.
A psychiatrist who evaluated Talamantes twice in jail testified that she was in a state of “acute paranoid psychosis” when she killed her daughter. The doctor, Captane Thomson, said he believed she knew what she was doing, but not the severity or immorality of the action because of that psychosis.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens, however, pointed out that Talamantes had offered conflicting explanations of the act – at different times saying she was responding to voices, that she believed her daughter was Satan and that she killed the girl to save her from decapitation by police.
He argued that Talamantes suffered some mental instability but that she was a manipulative, resentful woman who lied about or exaggerated her symptoms to support an insanity plea. He argued that she had a pattern of blaming others for her poor actions, and the death of her daughter was no different.
Couzens also focused on her previous drug use and the fact she neglected to disclose all of that drug use to Thomson.
A psychiatrist who testified at Couzens’ request said Talamantes exhibited signs of borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, but not psychosis. Joan Gerbasi testified that in two discussions with Talamantes, the woman described symptoms “that are not consistent with any known psychiatric disorder,” according to the Davis Enterprise newspaper.
Couzens and Fredericksen could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Talamantes’ son, who recently turned 5, is being cared for by family members.