Insanity Trial Begins in Drowning of 5-Year-Old Davis Girl

Napa-State-Hospital

By Marya Alloo

Opening statements were given Tuesday morning in the case involving a Davis woman being charged for murdering her five-year old daughter.

A very emotionless Aquelin Talamantes was prompted by her lawyer to stand as the jury entered Department 3 on Tuesday morning. As the jury entered, Talamantes shook her head and refused to stand in the jury’s presence. Talamantes, a 29-year old resident of Davis, is being charged for the murder of her five-year old daughter on September 26, 2013. She is being charged on two counts. The first count states that Talamantes committed a felony of “premeditated murder, willfully and unlawfully.” The second count states that Talamantes committed a felony “assault on a child under the age of eight, to cause harm by means of force.”

Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens began his opening statements with a PowerPoint presentation. Couzens began his presentation with video surveillance from the patrol car in which Talamantes was being detained on the day of the incident. The surveillance shows a distressed Talamantes, breathing heavily, while a second video on the side give an audio and video clip of what looks to be an officer preforming CPR on a child in the trunk of a car.

With a picture of five-year old Tatiana Garcia reflecting on the screen, a somber Couzens began his opening statement. “Aquelin Talamantes was the mother of a beautiful five-year-old girl named Tatiana Garcia.” He then informed the jury that Talamantes “pushed Tatiana under water for a minimum of fifteen seconds, which led her to a loss of consciousness. Tatiana then began to seize as she bit through her tongue. Her heart was still pumping, till she ended up drowning.”

Couzens paused for fifteen seconds, to show the jury the length of time the young girl was held under water. Couzens addressed the jury by advising that “everything you hear in this courtroom will fall under the category of passing blame.” He stated that “you will hear that her mother was murdered on her eleventh birthday, after which her sister Elisa Torres took over the mother role, and also that Aquelin was molested as a child.”

Couzens then began to give a synopsis of what took place on September 26, 2013. On the morning of the 26th, Elisa Torres, sister of Aquelin, was pulled over in front of her house for making an illegal U-turn. When the officer pulled Torres over, a disoriented Aquelin approached the officer and told her that “I hear whispers,” and then returned back into the house. Elisa then told the officer that the disoriented woman was her sister that was living with her, and stated that she was “mental.” Talamantes then returned back out of the house, holding her daughter in her arms. She asked the officer to “take her daughter.” When the officer asked if she was sure she wanted that to take place, Talamantes quickly changed her demeanor, almost as if she forgot what she had just asked, by saying “everything is ok.”

The concerned officer then asked for a welfare check to be placed, to view if the household was safe for the children. When the officer entered the house, everything was organized, there was food, and the kids seemed fine. The officer then spoke to Talamantes and came to the conclusion that she wasn’t a danger to her kids, but made a CPS referral just to be safe.

That afternoon, Elisa Torres left Talamantes with her two kids, son Michael and daughter Tatiana, to run errands. Couzens stated it is important to note that Torres told officers that before she left for her errands, “she saw the tub filled with about 12 inches of water, but chooses not to drain the tub, because she said Aquelin always left the water running in the tub.”

When Elisa Torres arrived from running her errands, she saw a very frustrated Talamantes clinching her fists, with her son Michael standing behind her. Concerned, Elisa asked where Tatiana was. Still clinching her fists, Talamantes responded with “I don’t know. I think someone took her.” As a worried Torres entered the house searching for Tatiana, Talamantes took son Michael and drove off in her car. The authorities were then called, as a frantic Elisa Torres continued to search for Tatiana. A search began for Aquelin Talamantes, which ended at the house of their sister Priscilla. As Talamantes got out of the car, she went to the back and patted the trunk of the car. An agitated Talamantes then was approached by officers. The keys were then taken away from Talamantes, as her sister Priscilla quickly darted to the trunk of the car.

When the trunk was opened, a trash bag, wrapped with a blanket, held the body of Tatiana. The police officer, a father himself, then jumped at the sight of foam coming out of the young girl’s mouth, and rigorously began to perform CPR. A neighbor, who was a paramedic, also helped by giving the young girl CPR. When the young girl arrived at the hospital with paramedics, she was also given CPR. Couzens informed the jury that one of the doctors even stated that at one point “Tatiana’s oxygen level got up to 90%, but she ended up not making it due to complications from the drowning.”

“Now, let’s move on to her mental state,” a very animated Couzens told the jury. He informed the jury that Talamantes was addicted to “a number of drugs.” The first drug is a pain killer called Norco, which she was first given when she received a work-related injury. Couzens, raising his voice, underlined that “Talamantes went back to doctors to receive refills on multiple occasions, and was even refused by some doctors because they had filled the prescription just recently. In one incident,” Couzens highlighted, “the defendant even got Norco from one doctor, and then proceeded to go to another doctor to receive more of the pain med.”

Another drug that Couzens told the jury about was “ecstasy.” When interviewed by officers, Anthony Palmer, longtime boyfriend of Talamantes, stated that they would “pop mollies,” which is a term used to describe taking ecstasy. Palmer also told officers that Talamantes would just smoke and take ecstasy, which would lead her to paranoia.

It is important to note that before this incident took place, Couzens stated that Talamantes had been admitted to a hospital for “hearing voices,” but was then dismissed due to the evaluation stating that the paranoia was from drug use. She was even evaluated thirteen days before Sept 26, and was told by doctors that she had no disability at all. Couzens then told the awe-stricken jury that previous internet searches were done by Talamantes to see what symptoms were associated with bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. Couzens emphasized that “the defendant built her own history, she was never diagnosed as having either of these disorders.” To further back up his point, Couzens told jurors that in jail Talamantes even asked what symptoms she would show if she had schizophrenia, and also asked her sister if they could sneak in brochures describing the disorder.

Couzens then drew attention back to Talamantes’ children. He stated that Talamantes “resented her children, she did not want them. In fact, she wanted to give them up for adoption. She even disliked her son Michael because he resembled his father.” Couzens then provided evidence of her resentment with audio of a phone call between Talamantes and her sister saying, “Stupid kids, I can’t take care of them, I don’t want them.” “In fact,” Couzens stated, raising his voice, “her friends even say she was a good mother, but that there was also neglect involved.”

Couzens ended his opening by stating that Talamantes’ “go to” phrase is, “This is torture.” He then concluded by saying that the defendant knew what she was doing. “Substance abuse, her attitude, and her anger, is the reasoning behind committing this murder, not mental illness,” an adamant Couzens told the jury.

After a brief pause, defense attorney Sally Fredrickson addressed the jury. An empathetic Fredrickson stated, “This trial is filled with tragedy and raw emotion, but I ask you to put away that emotion and apply the law.” She informed the jury to “listen to the facts and evidence of the psychiatrists, and then answer what kind of killing this is?” Fredrickson then admits that “yes, the defendant did commit the murder, but was it first degree murder is the question.”

Fredrickson then notified the jury of Aquelin Talamantes’s background. “She is the third youngest of seven siblings, and when she was around the age 8 or 9, she was very graphically molested by her father.” Fredrickson then repeated the word “graphically.” She then informed the jury that on Talamantes’ 11th birthday, her mom was found dead after being missing for two months.

At age sixteen Talamantes then left her family and met the father of her two children.   Fredrickson, raising her voice a bit, announced to the jury that this relationship involved “domestic violence towards her and her children.” A fed up Talamantes decided to leave the situation, and began a new life by filing a restraining order on the kid’s father. A struggling Talamantes asked her sisters to help her children, but her sisters were not inclined to do so. “At this point her mental health was deteriorating,” stated a very serious Fredrickson.

Fredrickson then indicated that what the defendant is suffering from is an “acute form of psychosis.” Some important facts Fredrickson highlighted were that Talamantes was planning on giving guardianship of her son Michael to her sister Priscilla, before the 26th of September. Fredrickson also told the jury that on the day of the incident, blood work indicated that there were no drugs or alcohol in Talamantes’ system. “The only thing found in Talamantes’ blood work was Prozac and tramadol, which is a pain killer.”

Fredrickson then began concluding her opening by telling the jury that “Aquelin Talamantes is not guilty of first degree murder,” and before stepping away from the podium, Fredrickson asked the jury to “keep an open mind.”

Testimony will continue throughout the week, and this case will continue to be on trial for an estimated 8 weeks.

You can follow along with updates on Twitter at @DavisVanguard or #YoloJustice

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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15 Comments

  1. Tia Will

    So far, we have two bits of evidence which should be placed on the reasonable doubt side of the ledger. Prior to drowning her daughter, the accused admitted she was incapable of caring for her children and attempted to make alternative arrangements for them including attempting to give her daughter to the police officer on the day in question. This is the kind of behavior one might anticipate from a person struggling with a mental illness not one who is premeditating murder. It is important to realize that the phrase “I hear whispers” was made prior to the drowning, and at a time when no drugs associated with this kind of mental aberration were found in her blood.

    This does not mean that the previous assessment of the doctors was based on incompetence on their part. Merely that they were not witnesses to the behavior of the accused in a drug free state. Use of recreational and or inappropriate use of prescription drugs is a common form of attempts at self medication in those suffering from mental illness.

    1. Davis Progressive

      at some point, it would have been better earlier, the vanguard should explain to their readers the mcnaughton rule and what legal insanity means, which is not concurrent with actual insanity. someone hearing voices could still commit murder under that rule as long as they knew at the time of the act that they were acting wrongly.

  2. Elizabeth Bowler

    “Fredrickson then admits that “yes, the defendant did commit the murder, but was it first degree murder is the question”.”

    I thought the defendant has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If so, why is her attorney arguing that she is guilty of murder but just not murder in the first degree? Can someone please clarify if there has indeed been an insanity plea in this case?

    1. Davis Progressive

      you’re misreading the comment and probably the intern miswrote a very technical point. what i think she’s saying is that the defendant killed the girl, the question is whether it is murder or whether she’s not guilty by reason of insanity. just a guess.

  3. Elizabeth Bowler

    Your interpretation would make sense, if that is what the attorney actually said. I have just never heard a defense attorney in an insanity case use the word “murder” when talking about their client.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i suspect they didn’t because murder has a specific legal definition that a defense attorney would never want to use or buy into.

  4. malloo

    I was the intern for this article. She agreed that yes her defendant did kill the child, but is it worth first degree murder. So yes, I made an error, but thanks to you readers for pointing out! :) In her opening though, she didn’t say anything about the insanity plea. She did say though to keep an open minded and pay attention to Talamantes mental status, that she was suffering from an acute form of psychosis.

    1. Elizabeth Bowler

      ok, then it sounds like she has not pleaded insanity but is going to try and avoid a first degree conviction and go for a lesser charge.

  5. Tia Will

    malloo

    Thanks for getting back with the clarification.
    Another note from a Vanguard veteran. It is important to note that the titles of the articles are sometimes provided by the authors of the articles, and are sometimes chosen by David and do not always closely correspond well with the content of the articles. Those of us on the editorial board make an attempt to weigh in when there is an obvious discrepancy. Sometimes we get there on time and sometimes we don’t as all of us have busy lives apart from the Vanguard. I point this out so that readers new to us do not get too hung up on the titles.

    1. Elizabeth Bowler

      I understand that the writers do not generally write the headline as this issue has come up before with other stories. I still believe that, regardless of who writes it, it should be based in fact. A headline referring to the “insanity trial” if there has not been an insanity plea, as appears to be the case here, is just plain misleading. As best I can tell, the issue of alleged mental illness will be used by the defense to try and persuade the jurors to return a conviction on a lesser charge than first degree.

  6. Antoinnette

    Awesome article, Marya……

    Yes, this case is going to be another emtional bombshell. The officer who tesified yesterday broke down on the stand…..sure this is not easy for her to talk about. The defendant accused her if “letting her down,” as she yells out in open court.

    If insane, I could certainly understand why….some people are just not strong enough to overcome things done to them as a child and turn to some self medicating things, often leading to a tragic ending as this and/or suicide.

    Tough case….

  7. Tia Will

    Please allow me an anecdote from my own experience.

    When I was an intern, a 10 year old boy was brought into the ER bleeding profusely from multiple stab wounds.
    Despite the heroic efforts of the emergency room personnel and the trauma surgeons, the boy died.
    It was soon revealed that the attacker was the child’s mother. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, had gone off her meds and was delusional at the time believing that her son was a demon. She thought that she was protecting herself and her son. Because she had previously been diagnosed and it could be proven she was not at therapeutic levels of her meds, she was not charged with the killing, but was treated. I can only guess the hell that awaited her when she realized what she had done.

    This will indeed be a tough case.

  8. malloo

    As a psych major I’m really interested in applying what I have learned towards this case. Particularly towards observing the defendant in the court room.

    Davis Progressive:
    David actually informed me about the mcnaughton rule. With research, hopefully I can learn more about it, so we can inform the readers as well.

  9. tj

    This trial seems like such a waste of time and money. The woman is obviously mentally ill. Likely some is genetic and the long term stress in childhood would be a huge factor.

    The 1st police officer, who failed to take the child then and there, was woefully ignorant.

    The McNaughton rule is interesting. Still, a plea deal would save a lot of time and money.

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