Mother arrested after child found in water-filled ditch dies, police say

Sherri Telnas, 45, was arrested on suspicion of killing one of her sons and injuring the second.
(Tulare County Sheriff’s Office)

A Tulare County woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder after her two children were found in an irrigation ditch and one of them died.

Sherri Telnas, 45, is being held without bail. Charges have not yet been filed against the woman, but authorities said she faces a murder charge.

Deputies were called to the 18900 block of Avenue 184 in Porterville about 5:25 a.m. Saturday for a report of a woman acting strangely, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The caller reported that Telnas had taken her two sons, ages 7 and 12, to a field across the street, investigators said.


As they made their way to the scene, deputies were notified that the children had been found in an irrigation ditch that was filled with water, according to the release.

The boys were taken to a hospital, where 12-year-old Jackson died and 7-year-old Jacob Ray was admitted in critical condition. Authorities are conducting an autopsy to determine Jackson’s cause of death.

Telnas was arrested at the scene. She is due in court Tuesday afternoon.

A former resident of Missoula, Mont., Telnas was charged with attempted murder in 2008 after she admitted to trying to drown Jackson, then 10 months old, in the Clark Fork River because she had heard voices, family members say. She pleaded no contest to lesser counts of criminal endangerment as part of a deal with prosecutors, according to a report from the Mineral Independent.


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

Brown has created an online fundraising page 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 Monday. “I pray this never happens to anyone else’s family. No child deserves this, and no parent deserves this.”

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