A California woman who previously practiced as an audiologist is currently on trial in Ventura County for involuntary manslaughter for stabbing a man she briefly dated in 2018.
The key to the relatively minor charge she faces is her chemically induced state of mind at the time of the bloodletting: She was high, authorities said.
Bryn Spejcher, 32, is accused of stabbing 26-year-old Chad O’Melia 108 times around 1 a.m. on Memorial Day 2018 at his condo in Thousand Oaks in the Conejo Valley, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Initially charged with murder, prosecutors asked for the lesser charge end of September at her own request after a forensic psychologist submitted a report concluding she was “acutely psychotic” during the extreme bout of violence. The judge overseeing the case ultimately granted the reduction requested by the state.
The apparent cause of Spejcher’s psychosis was three hits from a marijuana-laden bong. After the last bong hit, she went on a killing spree that cost the lives of the man she barely knew and her dog with three different knives. She apparently tried and almost died that day.
Santa Clarita said the state’s request came as a shock and an “ambush” to O’Melia’s family Radio station KHTS.
“You’re supposed to fight for the victim and their family, and I sit there and listen to them, and it was a group of people who just acted out of fear of something,” Sean O’Melia, the victim’s father, said. “Maybe it’s politics, advertising, I don’t know.”
While the state made the controversial charge change based on the scientific opinion of its expert, it is now trying to limit the effectiveness of the way the defense could use the agreed-upon diagnosis, the court said Ventura County Star. A pretrial motion was intended to prevent the jury from hearing arguments about involuntary intoxication — and particularly the idea that there might have been more than just marijuana in the bong that night. Judge David Worley denied both requests.
Prosecutors appear intent on contesting that argument.
“The law states that if someone voluntarily takes an intoxicant and bad things happen, such as driving under the influence, the person who voluntarily takes the intoxicant and does the bad thing is responsible,” the assistant district attorney said Audry Nafziger in her opening statement to a Star court report. “We can’t blame others if we do something bad because we wanted to get high.”
After getting high, Spejcher thought she was dead – the accepted psychotic episode. According to Nafziger, she believed that the only way to bring herself back to life was to kill O’Melia.
“The more she stabbed him, the more she felt like she was bringing herself back to life,” the prosecutor told jurors.
In the end, the man she had only been with for a few weeks was stabbed in the throat, chest, knee, head and heart.
After allegedly killing her husky, Arya, whom she was said to have loved, Spejcher began slitting her neck with a serrated bread knife, severing her carotid artery. Covered in blood, she continued to beat and cut herself as she knelt over the bleeding man – despite being repeatedly shocked by police with a stun gun in court last week, body-worn camera footage showed Reportedly shown.
The assassination attempt on her was only stopped after the ninth blow with a police officer’s steel baton, as can be seen from the recordings.
She reportedly lowered her head and cried while the video played. Spejcher’s mother also reportedly began sobbing – and then fell to the courtroom floor. The judge paused the proceedings so the grieving woman could be helped up and down.
The defendant will testify in her defense later in the trial.
Her defense says she had no history of mental illness, so she couldn’t have known that smoking marijuana would lead to a psychotic breakdown. Defense attorney Robert Schwartz also said his client was pressured to smoke by O’Melia that night.
Spejcher has been out on bail since 2018.
She now faces a maximum sentence of four years in prison on the charge of negligent homicide. In theory, she could stay behind bars a little longer if convicted, since the state has also accused her of killing O’Melia due to special circumstances – a legal addition in the Golden State that is similar to a sentencing enhancement. These special circumstances include, but are not limited to, the use of great violence, endangerment of society and the use of a weapon.
She pleaded not guilty to all charges.
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