The Davis woman accused of killing her 5-year-old daughter and driving her to Sacramento in the trunk of her car was embroiled in a custody battle last year with the child’s father, with each parent accusing the other of abusing the girl and her younger brother, according to documents on file in Yolo Superior Court.
Aquelin Crystal Talamantes was granted sole custody of the children — Tatianna Garcia, then 4, and her 3-year-old brother in July 2012, despite the father’s claim that she had an “anger problem” and had shown aggression in front of the youngsters, court papers show.
“She will get violent and damage the property in our children’s presence,” the father, Oracio Garcia of Suisun City, wrote in a seven-page declaration opposing Talamantes’ request for a domestic violence restraining order, which ultimately was granted in February 2012 along with orders that both Garcia and Talamantes take parenting classes. “I can’t sleep just thinking about what kind of environment my kids are in.”
Garcia alleged that Talamantes once attacked his father in his Modesto home and threatened to “beat up” his sister in Solano County, the latter incident documented in a police report attached to the court file.
Talamantes, meanwhile, claimed that Garcia would fail to feed the children or change their diapers while she attended school, and that both kids saw him being physically and verbally abusive toward their mother — once threatening her with a knife, court documents say.
She also presented the court with photographs of injuries to her children she said were inflicted by Garcia, as well as threatening text messages he allegedly sent to her phone. She filed the restraining order request in Woodland, giving the Yolo County Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center’s Walnut Street headquarters as her address.
But it was Talamantes who ended up in police custody last week after officers discovered Tatianna’s body in the trunk of Talamantes’ vehicle outside a Sacramento apartment complex. The investigation later shifted to the family’s home on Glide Drive in South Davis, which investigators have referred to as the “original homicide scene.”
Efforts by The Enterprise to reach Garcia for comment were unsuccessful. Court documents indicate Talamantes won custody of the couple’s children after Garcia phoned Talamantes in violation of the restraining order
Talamantes, 29, is being held without bail at the Yolo County Jail, where she declined an interview request Friday from The Davis Enterprise. She is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. Monday before Yolo Superior Court Commissioner Janene Beronio.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven said Friday his office was still awaiting police reports in the case before determining what charges would be filed.
The homicide investigation — Davis’ second in less than six months — began unfolding at about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, when, according to police accounts, Talamantes arrived at a relative’s residence at the Shore Park Apartments on Sacramento’s Pocket Road with her son, her daughter nowhere in sight.
Concerned family members summoned police to the scene, where after making contact with Talamantes they discovered an unresponsive Tatianna in the trunk of the car, authorities said. Both officers and bystanders attempted lifesaving efforts before the girl was taken to an area hospital and pronounced dead.
An autopsy was conducted Friday, but the girl’s cause of death remains undetermined pending test results, Sacramento County coroner’s officials said.
When Tatianna was placed in the trunk and how long she was there remained unclear Friday, and whether she was still alive when authorities found her will be for a medical examiner to decide, said Lt. Paul Doroshov of the Davis Police Department, which has taken the lead role in the investigation.
For officers to undertake lifesaving efforts is “pretty common,” Doroshov said. “If there’s hope, you want to try the best you can.”
The Sacramento discovery was not Talamantes’ first contact with law enforcement that day, however. According to Doroshov, Talamantes flagged down a patrol officer who had conducted a unrelated traffic stop near the Glide Drive home shortly after 9 a.m.
“The officer thought (Talamantes) was acting erratically, so she decided to do a welfare check at the house,” requesting assistance from a second officer, Doroshov said. Both officers spent about 40 minutes in the home, noting that the two children who were inside — presumably Talamantes’ — were “on the couch, playing and laughing.”
Doroshov said the duplex belongs to Talamantes’ sister, who also was in the home at the time and was interviewed by the officers.
“She (the officer) didn’t see any signs of abuse or neglect that would prompt her to go any further with the inquiry,” Doroshov said. He disputed reports that Talamantes told the officer she was unable to care for her children.
Talamantes had been staying at the home for just a few weeks and was attempting to secure an apartment in Sacramento, according to a relative who was parked in the home’s driveway Friday morning. She declined to comment about Thursday’s events but said the family planned to release a statement once they had more information about the investigation.
She also indicated that family members are caring for Talamantes’ son.
The Glide Drive house had been decorated early for Halloween, with a pair of skeletons propped on a chair on the front porch, a stark contrast to the angel-themed welcome sign and wind chimes hanging overhead. A scrap of yellow crime-scene tape still attached to a sprinkler was the only sign of anything amiss.
A crime-scene investigation team from the Sacramento Police Department, which is assisting in the probe, searched the residence well into the night Thursday, drawing the attention of neighbors such as Jenny Greco, who awoke from a nap that afternoon to discover the commotion.
“I saw lots of crime-scene tape and police activity outside,” Greco said, adding that she is new to the neighborhood and had not seen or met the family next door. “Obviously I feel terrible for the little girl. It’s not something I would have expected here in Davis.”
Davis school district officials say Tatianna was not enrolled in a local school. However, the district did send a crisis response team to the nearest school campus, Pioneer Elementary, “as a precaution.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene