Woman Accused of Killing Her Son 11 Years After Trying to Drown Him as a Baby

By Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'
July 2, 2019 Updated: July 2, 2019

A California woman faces murder charges after allegedly drowning a boy she had once tried to drown when he was just a baby.

Deputies from the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office were called to a location in Porterville, Calif., on June 29, in regards to what a police press release said was “a suspicious circumstance.”

The caller said 45-year-old Sherri Telnas was acting strangely and had taken her two sons, 12-year-old Jackson Telnas and 7-year-old Jacob Ray Telnas, to a nearby corn field.

When deputies arrived, they found the two boys unresponsive in an irrigation ditch full of water. Medical aid was rendered and the two children were taken to the hospital, where the 12-year-old died from his injuries. Police said the younger boy remains in critical condition.

Telnas tried to flee into an orchard when deputies arrived but was detained and arrested without incident.

She has been charged with murder in connection to the older boy’s death. Telnas also faces charges of attempted murder and corporal injury to a child with respect to the younger victim, Fox News reported, citing jail records. She remains in custody without bond.

‘I Will Never Unhear the Wails’

“I will never unhear the wails that came out of my mother-in-law when I told her,” said Elinor Brown, the boys’ aunt, in an interview for KFSN-TV.

“None of us believed it at first, because we found out through an old co-worker and at first it was like, ‘Oh yeah that happened 10 years ago,'” Brown told the station.

In 2009, Telnas was convicted in Montana of trying to drown the same boy when he was just 10 months old, according to the Missoulian.

Prosecutors cited in the report said she had been “in the throes of mental illness” when she submerged herself and her baby in a river, eventually taking him to a hospital where she admitted, “I tried to drown my baby.”

During questioning, Telnas said “bad thoughts or voices” had told her to drown the baby, according to the Mineral Independent.

She faced a maximum sentence of life in prison or death for attempted deliberate homicide of her son, the Independent reported, but she pleaded guilty to lesser counts of criminal endangerment.

Telnas was placed on probation for 20 years. The news outlet reported that the judge ordered her to see a psychiatrist, take medication, not use alcohol or drugs, and not have contact with Jackson without the consent of her probation officers and treatment providers.

A prosecutor cited by the Missoulian said at the time the sentence “holds Telnas accountable for her actions and ensures that this won’t be repeated.”

Jackson’s father was given custody after the drowning attempt a decade ago, according to the Missoulian.

It is unclear how or why both boys ended up in California in the custody of their mentally ill mother.

Stepdad ‘Hysterical and Panicked’ After Learning Wife Killed 10-Year-Old Boy

The incident recalls the case of a California mother accused of murdering her disabled son, according to reports.

Veronica Aguilar, 42, allegedly told her husband she’d sent the 10-year-old boy to Mexico, but instead she kept him in a closet for three years and starved the child to death.

These and other allegations were leveled against Aguilar during a June 17 preliminary court hearing reported on by ABC7, in which the boy’s mother stands accused of causing his death and staging a long-term cover-up of the crime.

The woman was reportedly so successful with the ruse that her husband Jose Pinzon had no idea Yonatan Aguilar was hidden in a closet too small for him to stretch out his legs in the couple’s tiny Los Angeles house for years, suffering terrible abuse.

Los Angeles Police Department Detective Abel Munoz was cited in the ABC7 report as saying in court Monday that when Aguilar told Pinzon in August 2016 that the boy had died, the stepfather was left “hysterical, panting, hyperventilating, and panicked.”

Yonatan was found dead in August 2016 in what Los Angeles police have called one of the worst instances of child neglect and abuse they have ever witnessed.

“It’s one of the worst cases I’ve seen in my career,” said Los Angeles Police Department Detective Moses Castillo, speaking to local TV station KCBS.

‘Very Gaunt, Frail-Looking Child’

According to the LA Times, on Aug. 22, Aguilar told Pinzon that the boy had died and led him to the bedroom closet to show him the shocking truth.

Authorities cited in the report said Yonatan’s body was wrapped in a blanket and covered in sores. There was foam in his nose and he was going bald.

When detectives found Yonatan in a closet, he weighed only 34 pounds.

“I saw a very gaunt, frail-looking child, who at that time to me looked like a 5, 6, or 7-year-old boy,” said Munoz in court Monday, according to ABC7.

Munoz was one of the law enforcement officers who responded to the Echo Park residence where Yonatan’s body was kept in a closet.

According to KTLA, Aguilar’s three older children were reportedly all aware that their mother had kept their youngest brother imprisoned in the closet.

The stepfather was reportedly the only one who was not aware that Yonatan was being subjected to horrific abuse.

Aguilar faces 15 years to life in jail on each count if convicted, and has been in jail in lieu of $2 million bail since her arrest in 2016, according to reports.

Tom Ozimek
Tom Ozimek has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education. The best writing advice he's ever heard is from Roy Peter Clark: 'Hit your target' and 'leave the best for last.'