The Davis woman convicted of drowning her daughter in a bathtub last fall was sentenced Monday in Yolo Superior Court and could spend the rest of her life in prison for the girl’s killing.
Aquelin Talamantes was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison with the possibility of parole by Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock. Talamantes, 29, must serve 25 years before she is eligible for parole, said Yolo County Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven.
The morning hearing marked the end of a wrenching case that hinged on whether Talamantes was sane when she submerged her 5-year-old daughter Tatiana Garcia in the bathtub of her sister’s Davis home last Sept. 26.
“From day one, this case was always about Tatiana,” Raven said Monday afternoon. “The case was extremely emotional for this office, for the family and for the jurors as well. In the end, our office has a job to do. We were focused on one thing: justice for Tatiana.”
Talamantes wrapped her daughter that day, still wet with bathwater and clad in her pajamas, in a blanket covered with a plastic bag and stowed her in the trunk of her Honda sedan. Talamantes then drove to another sister’s Pocket Road apartment in Sacramento, where the girl’s body was discovered by Sacramento police and family members.
One of the lasting images of the May murder trial was the split-screen, police dashboard camera footage of a police officer’s frantic attempts to revive the lifeless girl as her mother sat handcuffed in the back of a patrol car.
Talamantes’ defense counsel, Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredericksen, said her client had battled mental illness for years, was a victim of repeated sexual abuse as a child and was scarred by her mother’s violent death when Aquelin was 11 years old. A psychiatrist later testified that Talamantes told him she heard voices the day she drowned her daughter and that Talamantes believed she was protecting her daughter from police, who she believed wanted to kill the girl.
Talamantes’ bizarre behavior in the hours before her daughter’s death was enough to prompt Davis police officers to conduct a welfare check of the Glide Avenue home she and her two children shared with her sister. Although a Davis police officer testified that Talamantes looked “concerned and lost” during the check, she said Talamantes did not meet the criteria needed for authorities to admit her into mental health care.
Fredericksen did not return calls Monday requesting comment.
Talamantes’ sisters testified at trial that the defendant often said she felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities of parenthood and that her mental health had continued to deteriorate. The sisters said they were working to gain custody of Tatiana and her younger brother before Tatiana’s death.
But prosecutors and later jurors rejected the defense argument. Prosecutors portrayed Talamantes as a manipulative drug abuser who resented her children and who exaggerated symptoms to convince authorities of her mental instability to support an insanity plea.
“The jury heard a mountain of evidence in terms of (Talamantes’) mental capacity. They spent a significant amount of time deliberating on that specific issue,” ultimately rejecting Talamantes’ insanity plea and finding her guilty, Raven said.
Jurors decided in May that Talamantes acted willfully and deliberately in killing her daughter. A week later, the panel required scarcely two hours to decide Talamantes was sane that September day in her sister’s bathroom and should serve her sentence in prison rather than a state mental facility.