A woman who was prosecuted in Montana for trying to drown her baby son more than a decade ago has been accused of killing the now 12-year-old boy and seriously injuring his 7-year-old brother in California, authorities said Monday.
Sheriff’s deputies found the children unresponsive in a full irrigation canal near a cornfield but they have not said how the older boy, Jackson Telnas, died or what types of injuries the younger boy suffered. Sherri Renee Telnas was arrested in her rural home near Porterville, about 270 miles (435 kilometers) south of San Francisco.
The family had been in the area less than a year and authorities didn’t have contact with them before Saturday, when a 911 caller told officials she was acting strangely and had taken the boys to a cornfield near their home, said Ashley Schwarm, a spokeswoman with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office in California.
Schwarm said she didn’t know if Telnas, 45, has an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
Jackson had recovered after Telnas first tried to kill him in a Montana river in 2008, authorities said. She was soaking wet as she carried the boy, then 10 months, into a hospital said she had tried to drown him because “bad thoughts or voices” told her to do it, Mineral County, Montana, Sheriff Mike Boone said in a statement.
She pleaded no contest to two counts of felony criminal endangerment and was sentenced in 2009 to be under the custody of Montana health officials for 10 years because of a history of mental illness, Boone said. Jackson was living with his father at the time, the sheriff said.
Telnas got custody of him in a 2011 divorce, according to relatives and newspaper listings. She was released from health officials’ oversight in 2016, public records show.
It’s unclear why she was released early, why she received custody of the son she was sentenced for trying to kill and what requirements she may have been under for being able to keep parenting the boy.
John Ebelt, a spokesman for the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, said he couldn’t reveal any information about the case.
Ellie Brown, who is married to the boys’ uncle, said Telnas spent less than a year in the state psychiatric hospital. She reunited with her ex-husband, Jacob, and their second son was born in 2012 in Missoula, Brown said.
The couple lived together in California for a time and Telnas had been by herself with the boys for about a year, Brown said.
Deputies who responded to the 911 call early Saturday found a neighbor who made the call and the boys’ grandmother trying to revive the kids, KFSN-TV reported.
Jackson died at a hospital, and an autopsy will be performed to determine how he died, Schwarm said. The younger boy remained in critical condition Monday.
Telnas was arrested at the scene on suspicion of murder and attempted murder, the sheriff’s office said. She is scheduled to make her first court appearance Tuesday.
Hanson reported from Helena, Montana.
This story has been correctly to show that the mother was sentenced for trying to kill her son 11 years ago, not 12.