A California woman has been charged with murder in the drowning death of her 12-year-old son -- who authorities in Colorado say she tried drowning as an infant in 2008.
Sherri Renee Telnas, 45, of Porterville, was arrested on suspicion of murder in the death of Jackson Telnas. She is also facing charges of attempted murder, corporal injury to a child and obstructing an officer, according to Tulare County Jail records.
Telnas is being held without bond.
Tulare County Sheriff’s Office officials said deputies were called around 5:25 a.m. Saturday to the 18900 block of Avenue 184 in Porterville, about 50 miles north of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley. The caller reported that a woman, identified as Telnas, was acting strangely and had taken her two sons, ages 12 and 7, to a field across the street from their home.
“While the deputies were en route to the scene, they were notified the two children were found in a full irrigation ditch near a corn field and were unresponsive,” authorities said in a news release.
ABC 30 in Fresno reported that family members said the boys’ grandmother was trying to revive them when deputies arrived. The deputies took over working to save the children, who were rushed to a hospital, where Jackson was pronounced dead.
His younger brother remains in critical condition at Valley Children’s Hospital, Tulare County officials said.
Jackson’s autopsy showed he died of drowning.
According to the Associated Press, this is not the first drowning attempt by Telnas, who first tried to kill the boy by carrying him into a Montana river in 2008.
Jackson was 10 months old at the time, Mineral County Sheriff Mike Boone said in a statement.
A 2008 report by the Mineral Independent stated that Telnas, who lived in Missoula, showed up at the Mineral Community Hospital with Jackson and told workers there that she had tried to drown the baby in the Clark Fork River. X-rays showed a large amount of water in the boy’s lungs.
He recovered and was placed into his father’s custody, the Independent reported.
Telnas, who was charged with attempted homicide, pleaded no contest to two counts of felony criminal endangerment and was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years in the custody of state health officials because of her history of mental illness, the AP said.
Ultimately, she was released after spending less than a year in a psychiatric hospital, family members told the AP. She got custody of Jackson in 2010 as part of her divorce settlement.
The AP reported that the judge in the case noted Telnas was doing well in treatment and her relationship with her then-toddler son appeared “very loving.” Her psychiatrist had no concerns about her parenting ability.
Jackson’s father, Jacob Telnas, was unemployed at the time, living with friends and smoking marijuana on a daily basis, the AP reported.
The couple later got back together and had a second son, named Jacob after his father, in 2012. They were again separated at the time of Jackson’s death.
Elinor Brown, who is engaged to the boys’ uncle, said the family is devastated over their loss.
“I will never unhear the wail that came out of my mother-in-law when I told her,” Brown told ABC 30.
Brown said the family did not believe the news at first. A co-worker told Brown that Telnas had tried drowning the boys, and Brown said, “Oh yeah, that happened 10 years ago.”
Then she learned about Saturday’s tragedy, the news station reported.
On a GoFundMe page Brown set up to help her fiancé’s family pay for Jackson’s funeral, as well as his brother’s medical costs, she describes Jackson.
“Jackson was a sweet, funny, smart and kind 12-year-old who was so very loved by his family,” Brown said.
Her fiancé, Tim Telnas, told ABC 30 the 2008 attempted drowning drove a divide into the family and he had not seen Jackson or Jacob for a few years. Despite the distance, the love remained.
“It is beyond devastating,” Brown said. “There is a lot of guilt held by most of my family. I am doing everything I can to hold us together as much as possible.”