WOODLAND — She was called as a prosecution witness, but a Davis woman came to the defense of her son Friday at his trial for allegedly causing the death of a mentally impaired man who spent several years in his care.
“Jimmy was the helper,” Darlene Mattos said of son James Matthew Mattos, 53, who is charged with second-degree murder and elder abuse in connection with the October 2012 death of Cecil Wachholtz.
And while the defendant wasn’t the word’s best housekeeper — photographs taken by authorities showed a Hedy Lane trailer full of clutter, trash and animal feces — “I didn’t have any concerns about the way he was taking care of Cecil,” Darlene Mattos testified.
The elder Mattos, 78, took the stand a week after pleading no contest to elder abuse by means likely to cause death in connection with Wachholtz’s demise. She recalled being Wachholtz’s primary caregiver for years before relinquishing the reigns to her son around 2008, when the job became too difficult for her to handle.
Four years later, on Oct. 13, 2012, emergency personnel responding to a 911 call from James Mattos discovered an unresponsive, emaciated Wachholtz lying on a bare and soiled mattress, suffering from severe malnutrition, dehydration and multiple bedsores.
He died two weeks later at Sutter Davis Hospital, a week after his 67th birthday.
But Darlene Mattos’ testimony Friday seemed to contradict the defense’s claim that she bore the brunt of the responsibility for Wachholtz’s death by failing to give her son proper advice regarding his care.
“I did think he was in over his head, and I did offer to take (Wachholtz) back, but Jimmy said he was doing fine,” said Darlene Mattos, a retired surgical technician, who became Wachholtz’s conservator following her husband’s death.
She said she visited her son’s trailer from time to time but wasn’t concerned that Wachholtz never emerged from his bedroom, because “that was normal Cecil behavior.”
“He never came out and socialized,” Darlene Mattos said. His stubborn refusal to bathe, eat regular meals or go to the doctor also was typical behavior, she added.
As a result, Darlene Mattos said she never knew until he was hospitalized that Wachholtz had become bedridden or was suffering from bedsores.
There were 18 such wounds in all — 12 of them recent and six of them healed — forensic pathologist Dr. Mark Super, who conducted Wachholtz’s autopsy, had testified earlier in the day. He also noted 11 healing rib fractures and evidence that Wachholtz had aspirated food into his lungs, resulting in pneumonia.
Ultimately, Super found that Wachholtz died of septic shock — the infection of multiple organs. Coroner’s officials ruled the manner of death to be homicide due to neglect by caregiver.
Darlene Mattos said she was surprised to be arrested in connection with Wachholtz’s death and accused of involuntary manslaughter, a charge that ultimately was dismissed last week as part of her plea agreement.
“It really has turned my life around,” she said. According to Mattos, her Rancho Yolo mobile home was broken into several times while she was in Yolo County Jail custody, with thieves taking valuable items belonging to her family.
“I can’t even count all the things that are missing from my house,” she said.
As she walked off the witness stand for a courtroom break Friday afternoon, Darlene Mattos turned toward the counsel table and blew a kiss to her son. He blew one back.
Testimony in the case resumes on Monday.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene