Woman gets probation for fatal stabbing during weed-induced psychosis

Booking photo of Bryn Spejcher.
Booking photo of Bryn Spejcher.
(Ventura County District Attorney’s office)

A Thousand Oaks woman who faced the prospect of life in prison if convicted of the stabbing death of a man she was dating was sentenced Tuesday to two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service after arguing that she was on a cannabis-induced psychosis during the killing.

Authorities responded to a Thousand Oaks apartment on May 27, 2018, and found that Bryn Spejcher, 32, had stabbed Chad O’Melia, 26, dozens of times, then turned the knife on herself and her dog. She was arrested on suspicion of murder and charged with that offense.

But in an extraordinary turn of events last year, a prosecutor’s medical expert agreed with a defense expert for Spejcher that the behavior was the result of cannabis-induced psychosis, which she suffered after taking hits from the victim’s bong.

The expert conducted what prosecutors characterized as tests that showed she was not exaggerating or faking her behavior that day. Prosecutors opted to reduce the charge to involuntary manslaughter with a series of enhancements.

That decision came after psychologist Kris Mohandie, a consultant for law enforcement, examined Spejcher, her interviews with law enforcement and police body-camera footage and produced a 37-page report that concluded she had lost touch with reality due to highly potent marijuana.

After four hours of deliberation, a jury in December found her guilty of involuntary manslaughter — a charge that can carry a four-year prison sentence.

The move to legalize psychedelics in California appears to be entering a new phase, with incremental steps to permit the drugs in therapeutic settings.

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Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Worley, however, opted to sentence her to 100 hours of community service in the form of educating others on marijuana-induced psychosis and two years of formal probation.


Spejcher had been dating O’Melia for a couple of weeks when she went to the apartment. Shortly after taking a second hit from a bong, Spejcher began “hearing and seeing things that weren’t there” and believing she was dead, and that she had to stab O’Melia in order to bring herself back to life, according to the district attorney’s office.

In her closing statement, Spejcher told the judge, “I wish I could go back in time and prevent this tragedy from happening.

“I wish I had known more about the dangers of marijuana,” she added. “Had I known, I would never have smoked it that night or at all.”

Her attorney Michael Goldstein lauded the ruling.

“Today, Ventura Superior Court Judge did the right thing and imposed a sentence that was fair and accurately reflected Ms. Spejcher’s conduct and recognized that it was the contents of the marijuana she was given that was the sole cause of her psychotic breakdown,” he said. “It was clear that she had no control of her faculties and never intended to cause any harm. All of the medical experts agreed, including the expert called by the district attorney’s office.”