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.