Second son dies a week after mother is suspected of drowning his brother, authorities say

Sherri Telnas, 45, was arrested on suspicion of killing one of her sons. A second son has since died from his injuries.
(Tulare County Sheriff’s Office)

A 7-year-old boy has died following the death of his 12-year-old brother after police say the boys’ mother tried to drown them.

Jacob Ray Telnas died Sunday, a week after his brother, Jackson. His cause of death is pending an autopsy, but Tulare County sheriff’s officials say Jacob Ray’s death is the result of injuries he sustained at the hands of his mother.

Deputies responded to the 18900 block of Avenue 184 in Porterville around 5:25 a.m. June 29 after a caller reported a woman acting strangely. The woman, identified as Sherri Telnas, 45, had taken her two sons into a field. While in transit, the deputies were notified that the children had been found in an irrigation ditch near a cornfield and were not responsive.

The boys were transported to a local hospital, where Jackson died. Jacob Ray was admitted in critical condition.


The boys’ mother was arrested at the scene. She was arraigned last week and has been charged with Jackson’s drowning. She pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder, battery on a peace officer and gassing, or the throwing of bodily fluid onto a peace officer. Authorities said she “threw spit” on the deputies who interviewed her.

She likely will face additional homicide charges in relation to Jacob Ray’s death.

According to court documents obtained by the Visalia Times, Telnas told deputies she drowned her sons because “they were possessed by demons.”

In 2008, Telnas was charged with attempted murder after prosecutors said she tried to drown then-10-month-old Jackson in Idaho’s Clark Fork River. Family members said she had heard voices. Telnas pleaded no contest to lesser counts of criminal endangerment, according to a report from the Mineral Independent.


“The first time it was life-crushing. It was out of the blue, it was the worst experience I’ve ever been through by far,” the boys’ father, Jacob Telnas, told television station KECI last week. The couple divorced and later reunited.

Elinor Brown, who is engaged to the boys’ uncle, said Telnas spent less than a year in a state-run psychiatric hospital before she was released.

Brown created an online fundraising page last week to help the family cover funeral and medical expenses.

“Our family is going through something we never, ever thought that we’d have to go through,” she said in an interview on July 1. “I pray this never happens to anyone else’s family. No child deserves this, and no parent deserves this.”

Brown updated the page Sunday with news of Jacob’s death. Former teachers of the boys and family friends offered condolences and donations.

Telnas is being held without bail.

Times staff writer Alex Wigglesworth and The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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