Did Talamantes Know What She was Doing?

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murderby Andrew Reis

The trial of Aquelin Talamantes raged forward with further testimony from various medical and non-medical personnel. Testimony in the previous days has focused more on Talamantes’ mental state generally and from her past, but today more emphasis was given to explaining her mental state at the time of the crime. For those who have not heard, Aquelin Talamantes was living in Davis, CA when she is believed to have drowned her five-year old daughter.

The majority of testimony on Thursday, May 22, 2014, came from a psychiatrist, Dr. Captane Thomson, with further testimony from an emergency room doctor, Ryan Hunt, and a jail spiritual advisor, Deborah Mumma.

It is important to note that often, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens and Deputy Public Defender Sally Fredricksen would ask mental health questions of these witnesses about their previous experience in the field, or even cases previously testified in, without necessarily claiming their statements to be applicable to Aquelin. A prime example today was when DDA Couzens questioned Dr. Thomson regarding what the word psychotic means and does not mean in relation to an individual understanding their actions.

Dr. Thomson said an individual who is actually psychotic and suffers from a diagnosed mental illness could potentially realize what their actions are in any given moment. However, he continued that a sufferer of mental illness might not be able to comprehend the consequences to those actions. Furthermore, another level of complexity is introduced into this case from the mentioned statements of Dr. Thomson because it begs for more specific and clear information into Talamantes’ culpability at the time of the incident.

Couzens did not miss a beat and immediately began inquiring of Dr. Thomson details about how traumatic past experiences typically influence individuals into the future. Couzens asked if Aquelin’s horrible childhood experiences like molestation automatically preclude being psychologically delusional, in addition to being emotionally distressed. Dr. Thomson affirmed it was possible to simply only be emotionally distressed from these experiences, but not necessarily psychologically delusional.

Additionally, Dr. Thomson did not believe Talamantes’ actions were brought forth by drug use, despite questionable past use of methamphetamine. Thomson said this because of the absence of visible physical signs of drug use and the negative blood sample. Couzens asked Dr. Thomson a hypothetical: what if Talamantes had in fact been using methamphetamine while living with her sister Torres, would this change your assessment? Thomson said it would not. Thomson was adamant about not believing Talamantes killed her daughter due to a drug-induced psychosis, be it withdrawals or anything drug-related.

Dr. Thomson did agree that a mother who would take the life of her own child would fit the bill for having mental health issues. Still, despite a person suffering from mental illness and potentially not understanding the consequences of impending actions, perhaps a motivation still exists. When Dr. Thomson interviewed Talamantes, she told him of concerns that if police were to take her children, they would hurt them, even in graphic detail of “cutting off their heads.”

Dr. Thomson said this ideation of the police potentially harming Talamantes’ children might cause a paradox in her mind of knowing she is not fit to be a parent, yet wanting to protect her children, prompting the tragic murder. Dr. Thomson said, in a nutshell, this type of “paranoia” would essentially be an easily foreseeable set of circumstances where a motive might be created for a mentally sick individual.

Couzens asked Dr. Thomson why Aquelin would then allow the individuals, police officers, the source of her delusion and fear, into her residence for discussion. Couzens also communicated to the jury through the testimony of Dr. Thomson that Thomson was the only one to whom Talamantes expressed her fear of the police.

Thomson also recognized the potential for the embellishment of a mental health condition for legal gain, but did not believe this notion to be applicable to the case at bar. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, borderline personality disorder, instability, and difficulty bonding with people generally is what Dr. Thomson saw in Aquelin. Dr. Thomson’s long testimony ended with conveying that, in order to procure a firm diagnosis of schizophrenia, a six-month observation and treatment period must occur.

Thomson said it was common for concerned family members to initiate doctor visits on behalf of their loved ones suspected of suffering from schizophrenia. Thomson also stated that, although no clear gene exists for predicting the expression of schizophrenia in a person, familial predispositions occur with mental disorders.

Dr. Ryan Hunt, the emergency room physician, was on the stand for less than five minutes and quickly testified about Talamantes’ chief complaint about having her prescriptions refilled. Hunt noted Talamantes’ anxious demeanor on August 20, 2013.

The last few minutes of the afternoon session of People v. Talamantes on May 22, 2014, ended with testimony to the jury from Deborah Mumma. Mumma is a spiritual advisor who frequents the jail scene in the hope of bringing inmates to faith. Mumma said Talamantes wanted to kill herself so that she could be reunited with her daughter. Mumma said Talamantes was receptive to her faith-based teachings.

At the end of the day Judge Mock predicted, based on the remaining testimony, that the jury might begin deliberations as soon as Tuesday, May 27. Please stay tuned to the Vanguard for updates.

For more updates, follow us on Twitter @DavisVanguard #yolojustice

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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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6 thoughts on “Did Talamantes Know What She was Doing?”

  1. Davis Progressive

    “Dr. Thomson affirmed it was possible to simply only be emotionally distressed from these experiences, but not necessarily psychologically delusional.”

    as we learn more about mental processes, it will be interesting if we begin to move off mcnaughton as the cornerstone to criminal insanity.

  2. tj

    The odds of (1): having a severely ill biological parent and (2): growing up with extreme and long lasting stress and not being mentally ill are rather small.

    Can anyone clarify how Dr. Thomson got nvolved? Was he hired by one side or the other?

  3. dl

    I think he works for the jail? Which is where he first interviewed her – while incarcerated. But I’m not certain.
    Based on some of these findings, I definitely believe she is mentally ill.

    1. tj

      I thought so too, that he might work for the county, but another psychiatrist saw Talamantes at the jail and it was reported that that doctor is contracted to see patients at our county jail.

      Perhaps he was hired by the defense, and the DA thought they could use his findings to their own advantage?

      RISPERADONE — A pharmacist advised me that this medication causes PARANOIA in 25% of the patients it’s given to. Asked how he knew this, because I couldn’t find it anywhere in the literature, he explained that his wife worked at the local 5150 unit and that’s what she and other staff had observed first hand.
      There’s some indication that the paranoia may be worse in the first month or two that it’s prescribed.
      Talamantes had just begun taking it that very month.

  4. dl

    It certainly could have been caused by the RX. However, Talamantes has a brother very close in age, who suffers from the same symptoms. Is it schizophrenia is it “acute paranoia”? I know of the family – and have followed since the murder of their mother in 1995. One of Talamantes’ brother is homeless, does not take his medications and has been seen and noted by friends and family members that he talks to himself and can often times be seen talking into the air if you will. He did a stint in Napa State Hospital where they actually diagnosed him with Schizophrenia and more. The mother drank heavily while pregnant. Anyone in town who knew her can attest to this.
    This is an obvious case of a mentally ill person. But only the jury will determine that. This story is so sad. The icing on the cake, is that the oldest sister asked the Davis PD that morning – “Can you please help me, I have a mentally ill sister inside the house and I don’t know what to do anymore?”. Right before this happened – they were there that morning. Noted Talamantes odd behavior and many other red flags and yet still left. So sad. Such a tragedy.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if some TV network picks it up as one of those sad stories you only see on Lifetime.

  5. Antoinnette

    I think these poor kids never had much of a fighting chance from the word go….it is tragic what they all endured as children. But I know it must be tough for the officers toi. Yes, they made a
    Bad call,I believe since this tradegy they now must take more classes to help them identify things like this…

    I say most of these prescription drugs can make a person worse. I read some articles on borderline personality disorder and most doctors use psychotherapy, not drugs.

    Too, that is not exactly correct, what she said she told police that morning. But it really does not change anything.

    Personally, I would never have left her alone or not taking the kids, being a sister or the cops but that is only me and we all react/think differently.

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