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 by drowning him in California, authorities said Monday.
Sheriff’s deputies found the boy and his 7-year-old brother unresponsive in a full irrigation canal near a cornfield. An autopsy said Jackson Telnas died of drowning, and officials said the younger boy is hospitalized in critical condition but didn’t detail what injuries he suffered.
Sherri Renee Telnas, 45, was arrested in her rural home near Porterville, about 270 miles (435 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Authorities didn’t know if she had an attorney who could speak on her behalf.
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 Telnas 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.
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 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.
She spent less than a year at the state psychiatric hospital, said Ellie Brown, who is married to the boys’ uncle. Telnas got custody of Jackson in late 2010 as part of her divorce, court records said.
The judge found that she was doing well in her treatment with her psychiatrist, was holding down a job and her relationship with her son “appears to be very loving.”
The psychiatrist “had no concern about her ability to parent and testified that he sees no risk factors to indicate that she may de-compensate in her emotional wellness,” District Judge Ed McLean wrote.
He also noted that the boy’s father, Jacob Telnas, did not fight testimony that he was unemployed, living with friends, smoked marijuana on a daily basis and drank alcohol regularly.
She later reunited with her ex-husband, and their second son was born in 2012, Brown said. The couple lived together in California for a time, and Telnas had been alone with the boys for about a year, she said.
Telnas was released from Montana health officials’ oversight in 2016, public records show. It’s unclear what requirements or oversight she may have been under when she got back custody of the son she tried to kill.
Jon Ebelt, a spokesman for the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, said he couldn’t reveal any information about the case.
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.
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.
Correction: This story has been correctly to show that the mother was sentenced for trying to kill her son 11 years ago, not 12.