Crime, Fire + Courts

Mother, son to stand trial in Davis elder-abuse death

By From page A1 | September 17, 2013

WOODLAND — A Davis mother and son were ordered to stand trial last week for the 2012 death of an elderly man who had been in their family’s care for decades.

Darlene Roberta Mattos, 77, and 53-year-old James Matthew Mattos were charged in June with the Oct. 27, 2012, death of Cecil Wachholtz, who succumbed two weeks after being admitted to Sutter Davis Hospital’s intensive-care unit, according to testimony presented Friday in Yolo Superior Court.

James Mattos is charged with murder and elder abuse, with enhancements alleging prior criminal convictions. Darlene Mattos faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, elder abuse and embezzlement by caretaker, according to court records. Both have pleaded not guilty.

The Yolo County Sheriff’s Department launched its investigation of what was then a suspected elder-abuse case on Oct. 13, 2012, after James Mattos phoned 911 to report that Wachholtz was unresponsive inside his Hedy Lane trailer at the Royal Oak mobile home community.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived to find the trailer filthy and in disarray, “including a smell I can only describe as rot,” Deputy Dean Nyland testified Friday in Judge Timothy Fall’s courtroom.

Wachholtz, 66, arrived at the hospital dehydrated and malnourished, suffering from multiple bedsores and bone fractures, Nyland said. His weight reached 97 pounds only after he had been administered six liters — about 13 pounds — of fluids in the hospital.

His cause of death was determined to be septic shock — described as the infection of multiple organs — due to aspiration pneumonia and multiple bedsores, Robert LaBrash, Yolo County’s former chief deputy coroner, said at Friday’s hearing.

“I concluded the manner of death was homicide” resulting from poor medical care, LaBrash said.

Sheriff’s Detective Jennifer Davis testified that Wachholtz, who was mentally impaired, had been cared for by various members of the Mattos family since he was 17 years old. An aging Darlene Mattos handed the responsibility down to her son in 2008 but continued to receive monthly payments of up to $2,500 from Wachholtz’s trust, most or all of which she would then transfer to James Mattos, Davis said.

Davis said she traced the payments from the defendants’ bank records, because when she had asked Darlene Mattos about the amount and frequency of the trust-fund installments during an interview, James Mattos instructed her “not to answer.”

Fall ordered both James Mattos and Darlene Mattos to stand trial on the charges as filed, ordering both back to court on Sept. 26 for arraignment.

James Mattos continues to be held without bail at the Yolo County Jail. Court records show he has prior convictions dating back to 1994, including battery, lewd and lascivious acts with a child under age 14, and failure to register as a sex offender.

Previously held in lieu of $100,000 bail, Darlene Mattos was granted release on her own recognizance after her attorney, Jeff Raven, argued that she posed neither a public-safety threat nor a flight risk, having remained in Davis throughout the case’s eight-month investigation.

Disputing his client’s involuntary manslaughter charge, Raven also argued that Wachholtz had frequently resisted his caregivers’ attempts to feed him and provide medical care, but Fall let the count stand as charged.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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