WOODLAND — About a month before she allegedly drowned her daughter, Aquelin Talamantes walked into a Sacramento hospital seeking treatment for mental-health issues.
Accompanied by her two young children, Talamantes’ demeanor raised red flags among hospital staff, who in turn issued a referral to Child Protective Services.
“There was concern about her detachment from her children,” CPS social worker Carmen Mercado testified Friday in Yolo Superior Court, at the close of Talamantes’ first week of trial on murder and child-assault charges. “She was not responsive to her children.”
But attempts to make contact with Talamantes in the following days — first at the Sacramento apartment she shared with her kids, and later at a relative’s residence — were unsuccessful, said Mercado, who did not interview Talamantes until the night of Sept. 26, 2013.
By then, Talamantes was in the custody of Sacramento police, who earlier that day discovered the body of 5-year-old Tatiana Garcia in the trunk of Talamantes’ car. Authorities say Talamantes drowned her daughter in the bathtub of her sister’s Glide Drive home in Davis before transporting the body to another sister’s Pocket Road apartment complex.
At the police station, Talamantes at first appeared upset and “very vocal,” but when Mercado questioned her, “it was as if nothing was wrong,” the social worker said. “She had no problem deciphering my questions.”
Talamantes, 29, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in connection with her alleged actions, which defense attorney Sally Fredericksen stemmed from a traumatic childhood that included graphic molestation by a relative and the violent murder of her own mother when Talamantes was 11 years old.
The case’s prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens, contends Talamantes acted out of resentment for her young children — including Tatiana’s younger brother Michael, 4 — and has fabricated her symptoms of mental illness.
Other witnesses Friday included Rachel Powe, manager of the Land Park Woods apartment complex in Sacramento, where Talamantes lived with her children until early September 2013.
Powe said Talamantes demonstrated no odd behavior when she moved into the complex, but later lodged frequent complaints about other residents and refused to allow workers into her apartment for inspections. Once, Talamantes called the police “on herself,” Powe said.
Still, Talamantes’ children seemed “very happy,” said Powe, who often saw the siblings playing on the property.
“I never saw her raise her voice to them or hit them. I would assume she was a good mom,” Powe said, though she acknowledged she never interacted with Talamantes beyond their manager-tenant relationship.
Talamantes moved out of the apartment complex on Sept. 6, but Powe saw her several more times when the former tenant returned to inquire about a security deposit refund. Their last contact was on the afternoon of Sept. 26.
Powe said Talamantes again showed up to ask about her refund, which Powe said had been sent to her via mail. At that point, “she stormed out. It was very brief, very fast.”
It was about an hour later that Talamantes arrived at her sister’s apartment complex in her black Honda Accord, where police and relatives opened the trunk to discover Tatiana’s damp, lifeless body wrapped in a blanket inside a plastic trash bag.
The next day, when someone informed Powe about the discovery of Tatiana’s body in the trunk of Talamantes’ car, “my exact words were, ‘I just saw her yesterday.’ ”
Testimony in the case resumes Monday in Judge Stephen Mock’s courtroom.
— Reach Lauren Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene