Trial Continues in Elder Abuse/ Murder Case


Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600By Andrew Reis and Antoinnette Borbon

April 14, 2014, marked the fifth day of People vs. James Mattos in Department 3 of Yolo County Superior Court.  The testimonies and evidence presented before the Honorable Stephen Mock all began from a 911-phone call placed by James Mattos on October 13, 2012.  This one phone call placed from his Royal Oak Mobile Home Community trailer in Davis, CA would eventually snowball into Mattos facing charges for second-degree murder and embezzlement.  Mattos placed this emergency call because an elderly man named Cecil Wachholtz, also a resident of the trailer, was unresponsive.

When Wachholtz arrived at Sutter-Davis Hospital, the attending emergency room physician, Dr. Abram Levin, was first to assess Cecil’s condition.  Dr. Levin, who testified in open court on April 9, 2014, was surprised at the overall poor condition of Wachholtz.  Dr. Levin described for the jury, as prompted by Deputy District Attorney Ray Linden, graphic photos of Wachholtz’ body riddled with pressure ulcers.  Hypothermia and dehydration were also words Dr. Levin used to describe the state of his newly-arrived patient, Cecil Wachholtz.

Prosecutor Ray Linden made the point to convey to the jury, through Dr. Levin’s testimony and later medical witnesses, that Wachholtz’ condition could not have manifested quickly or in the hospital.  Rather Linden wanted to convey a strong sense that Wachholtz’ rapidly deteriorating body was a process that occurred over perhaps months rather than days.

Especially with elders, when such a severely afflicted body is discovered like it was on October 13,2012, it is typical for law enforcement to become involved.  Due to the suspected neglect of Cecil Wachholtz, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department began investigating the matter, as led by Detective Jennifer Davis.

Detective Davis, at this point in 2012, began probing for any information regarding the medical history of Mr. Wachholtz.  Davis’ investigation led her to contact various medical personnel, pharmacies, anyone who might know how Wachholtz ended up in such bad shape.  Detective Davis obtained the necessary search warrants to access the documents of the relevant medical institutions which provided her significant leads.

The detective’s investigation uncovered that Darlene Mattos, mother of James Mattos, was in fact conservator to the approximately $226,000 trust of Cecil Wachholtz with James Mattos also listed as a beneficiary.   This role of conservator placed Darlene and James Mattos in a role to utilize this trust for the purpose of caring for Cecil, like living and medical expenses.

Shortly after Detective Davis’ investigation began, Cecil Wachholtz unfortunately passed away, on October 27, 2012.  Dr. Daniel Kennedy of Sutter Medical had begun overseeing Wachholtz in the intensive care unit, after Dr. Levin in the emergency room, and more crucially up until his death. Dr. Kennedy testified in court on April 10, 2014, that severe malnutrition was the primary cause.  Malnutrition is claimed by other expert testimony to be a condition where the body no longer can process nutrients like a healthy person, contrasting starvation.  However, malnutrition was also testified to be a state of being that takes considerable time to develop and greatly exacerbates other conditions, like perhaps the ulcers seen on Cecil Wachholtz’ body.

Beyond the potential neglect at play here, giving root to the second-degree murder charge, embezzlement provided a unique twist to this case.  Numerous Wells Fargo bank statements depicting withdrawals from the trust of Wachholtz, as requested by Darlene and James Mattos, were obtained as evidence through the efforts of Detective Davis.  These withdrawals were submitted as budgets to Wells Fargo with items like rent or pharmaceuticals.

Determining the implementation and execution of these requests for their intended purpose characterized one of many moments of heated debate between Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden and Deputy Public Defender Emily Fischer.  Related to the embezzlement charge, Linden also prompted testimony from Detective Davis that amounts of money similar to requests on the trust of Wachholtz were being withdrawn from Darlene Mattos’ personal account and subsequently deposited into a different account of James Mattos.

The mother of James Mattos, Darlene, did take the stand and gave some statements about her efforts in caring for Cecil Wachholtz.  Darlene Mattos testified as to the difficulties Wachholtz presented in being cared for, like refusing food and to leave his room.  She also stated that Wachholtz requested to live in the trailer with James. Law enforcement described the trailer, where some Wells Fargo trust statements were legally found, as in a condition conducive to belonging to a filthy hoarder. Where does the legal definition and duties of a caregiver begin and end? This matter will continue to unfold with witnesses on behalf of James Mattos still to testify and then a veridict is likely.  Stay tuned to the Davis Vanguard.


About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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6 thoughts on “Trial Continues in Elder Abuse/ Murder Case”

  1. Themis

    It’s easy to weave a story of elder abuse. The sad thing here is this story could be told over and over again around the country because it is very difficult to tend to someone elderly, many who refuse to get medical attention. I don’t know if that is the case here, but most people do the best they can.

    1. David Greenwald

      I sat in on the preliminary hearing. What it sounded like was that the victim was a not so elderly, but developmentally disabled man. He had been taken care of by the main defendant’s father until the father was too old to care for him and subsequently was deceased. The younger Mattos was probably not well trained to be a caregiver, probably go overwhelmed by the situation. The victim went down hill very fast and he probably lacked the training to know what to do, panicked and did nothing.

      Working against him is the horrible condition that the victim was living in and the tremendous shock that he was in.

      This certainly adds up to criminal negligence, but it’s an open question on second degree murder.

  2. tj

    Darlene apparently testified that she visited her son, but that she never even looked in the victim’s bedroom.

    The victim could have been placed in a nursing home across the street from Darlene’s home, but that might have used up money in the trust fund.
    It’s no excuse to claim the victim didn’t want medical care or to move to a nursing home; that’s why he had a conservator – to make good decisions on his behalf.

    James Mattos doesn’t appear much better off or better able to manage his life than the victim.

    Does the Vanguard have more info on James’ capacity? He looks like a victim, too.

  3. Tia Will

    Care for the elderly an incapacitated in our society is woefully inadequate. All too often the care falls to family members and other designees who themselves are extremely challenged in making their way through systems with very complex barriers to obtaining health care, or really any other kind of assistance.

    In this case, the main questions that I would have are not about the inadequacy of the care, which I view as not only an individual but also a societal failure, but about the trust fund. Surely it would have been a reasonable expectation that this money should have been used to secure adequate care for the dependent. It would appear that this was not considered a priority for either of the responsible adults, who if they were incapable of providing care themselves, which admittedly is very difficult, should certainly have used these funds to hire someone capable of providing such care.

    1. Andrew Reis

      We heard more testimony in this case that will include some background information about the Defendant himself and the occupations of his mother (conservator to the trust) and sister (Karen Long). Im excited to see the outcome of the jury deliberations.

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