Aquelin Crystal Talamantes, the Davis woman accused of murder last week after her 5-year-old daughter was found unresponsive in her car trunk, pleaded not guilty Monday at her arraignment in Yolo Superior Court.
With long, dark hair cascading down her back and hiding her face, Talamantes wore a green-and-white jumpsuit, hands shackled to her waist. She showed hardly any emotion, but rested her head in her hands several times.
The brief hearing shed little light on what exactly transpired before police found Tatianna Garcia in the trunk of her mother’s car Thursday outside a Sacramento apartment building on Pocket Road. Along with the murder charge, Yolo County prosecutors alleged Monday that Talamantes beat her daughter, filing a second allegation of assault on a young child with force likely to result in death.
Tearful family members couldn’t contain their feelings as Talamantes, 29, was led into the crowded courtroom. Chained to other inmates, Talamantes glanced back briefly at a courtroom gallery filled with news media and family members, some of whom openly sobbed as the charges were read.
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As a sheriff’s deputy led Talamantes back to jail, where she is being held without bail, one of her supporters shouted, “We still love you, Aquelin.”
None of those who showed up in court to support Talamantes spoke to reporters.
Talamantes will return Oct. 15 to Yolo Superior Court with her court-appointed attorney. Yolo Superior Court Commissioner Janene Beronio ordered her held without bail at Yolo County Jail in Woodland.
Sacramento and Davis police arrested Talamantes about 2:35 p.m. Thursday at a relative’s apartment on Pocket Road in Sacramento after authorities said Talamantes drove there from her home in Davis with her 4-year-old son – and with her unresponsive daughter in the trunk of her car. Talamantes’ relatives grew concerned and called police when she arrived at the apartment with the boy but without her daughter, authorities said. Mother and daughter had been seen together in Davis earlier in the day, relatives told police.
Soon after Sacramento police arrived at the apartment, they discovered Tatianna in the trunk of her mother’s car. With the help of neighbors, they tried to revive her.
She later died at a local hospital. It remains unknown when the girl was placed in the trunk.
Davis police met briefly Thursday morning with Talamantes, hours before Tatianna’s death, after officers conducted an unrelated traffic stop outside her Glide Drive home. Police at the time said she asked them what was happening, and her conduct raised enough alarms that officers decided to walk through her home. They spoke with Talamantes and another adult, found nothing amiss and left. Davis Assistant Police Chief Darren Pytel later described the officers’ visit as a “routine welfare check.”
Davis police and Yolo County prosecutors took over the case after investigators determined the circumstances leading to Tatianna’s death happened at Talamantes’ Glide Drive home in Davis, Sacramento police said.
Authorities offered few new details Monday on what might have prompted the girl’s death. The Sacramento County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy on the girl, but deputy coroner Kim Gin said results are pending, adding that toxicology tests are routine and typically take weeks to complete.
Davis Police Lt. Paul Doroshov said Talamantes had no contact with his department prior to the Thursday morning visit and said she was believed to have moved to the city only recently.
Court records show that Talamantes and the girl’s father, Oracio Garcia, had battled each other for custody of the girl for several years.
All was quiet Monday at the tidy-looking Davis duplex where Talamantes was living with her two children. At a park across the street, women wheeled strollers and young children frolicked on playground equipment.
Outside the Talamantes residence, colorful Halloween decorations had been replaced with memorial candles that burned inside glass canisters on the porch. A bouquet of pink roses and another large bunch of flowers lay nearby.
No one responded to the home’s doorbell.