Share and Follow
A California woman who admittedly stabbed a man she briefly dated to death while in a drug-induced, dissociative fugue-like state was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Friday.
Bryn Spejcher, 32, ultimately did not contest that she killed Chad O’Melia, 26, by using multiple knives. The man was cut and pierced 108 times in his Thousand Oaks condo in the Conejo Valley, roughly 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, at around 1 a.m. on Memorial Day 2018. That night, she also stabbed her dog, Arya, and tried to take her own life, but she was interrupted by law enforcement.
She was originally charged with murder, but prosecutors asked for a substantially lesser charge after the state’s expert determined Spejcher was “acutely psychotic” due to three successive hits of marijuana from a bong immediately before the violence.
Key to that finding was stabbing her beloved husky.
The state-appointed forensic psychologist, Kris Mohandie, wrote in a report that the killer appeared “possessed” in police body-worn camera footage from that night, according to court documents obtained by the Ventura County Star. The expert’s report also noted that stabbing “her own beloved dog, without any evidence of animal cruelty tendencies, is highly inconsistent with her love of dogs and underscores her level of impairment.”
Then, after stabbing Arya, Spejcher began slashing at her own neck with a serrated bread knife — cutting her jugular vein. Drenched in blood, she continued cutting herself while kneeling over the man bleeding out — despite being shocked over and over by police with a stun gun, footage shown in court last month reportedly showed. The attempt on her life only stopped after the ninth blow from a police officer’s steel baton, body-worn camera footage also revealed.
In a press release announcing the verdict, prosecutors described the killing as follows:
On May 27, 2018, Spejcher went to Mr. O’Melia’s apartment in Thousand Oaks, where both took several hits from a bong loaded with marijuana. Spejcher had an adverse reaction to the marijuana and suffered from what experts call Cannabis-Induced Psychotic Disorder. During that psychotic episode, Spejcher stabbed Mr. O’Melia multiple times killing him. She also stabbed herself repeatedly.
By the trial, both the state and the defense agreed she was in the throes of a severe, drug-induced psychosis — despite the relatively rare nature of cannabis causing such a psychotic break.
“She had an out-of-body experience,” Ventura County Senior Deputy District Attorney Audry Nafziger said. “She could see her own dead body, and she could hear voices, emergency room doctors doing CPR, her family, other voices, unknown voices.”
After Spejcher got high, she thought she was dead — the accepted psychotic episode. Those voices, the prosecutor said, told Spejcher — and Spejcher genuinely believed — that the only way she could bring herself back to life was by killing O’Melia.
“The more she stabbed him, the more she felt she was bringing herself back to life,” the prosecutor told the jury. “After killing Chad O’Melia, she took the large, serrated bread knife and began to stab herself, over and over.”
Spejcher, her face and neck scars still visible, testified through tears in her own defense as the trial drew to a close.
Her memories of the incident were more or less in line with what prosecutors described — the hallucinations, the feeling that she was trapped in a dead body, according to the Star. She recalled stabbing Arya. She recalled picking up knives and throwing them at O’Melia, but when she first stabbed him, she said, her memories then “went black.”
Dismissing the murder charge was a shock and “ambush” to O’Melia’s family, according to Santa Clarita-based radio station KHTS.
“You’re supposed to fight for the victim and his family, and I’m sitting there listening to them, and it was a group of people that were out acting purely from either fear of something,” Sean O’Melia, the victim’s father, said. “Maybe it’s politics, publicity, I don’t know.”
While the state made the controversial shift in charges based on the scientific opinion of their expert, they later tried to limit the efficacy of how the defense might use the agreed-upon diagnosis, according to the Star. A pretrial motion sought to keep jurors from hearing arguments about involuntary intoxication — and specifically the idea that maybe a drug other than marijuana was in the bong that night.
Judge David Worley denied both of the state’s motions.
Those theories didn’t matter much to jurors in Thousand Oaks.
After deliberating for less than a day, Spejcher was convicted on one count of involuntary manslaughter by an unlawful act, according to a courtroom report by local radio station KVTA.
“This was a hard-fought case where the victim’s family had to wait a long time for justice, and I am grateful for the jury’s verdict,” Nafziger said in a news release. “We will continue with the presentation of evidence.”
Spejcher has been out on bail since 2018. On Friday, prosecutors asked for her bail to be revoked. The judge denied that request.
She now faces up to four years in prison for the manslaughter charge. She could, in theory, spend slightly longer behind bars if she is convicted because the state has also accused her of killing O’Melia under special circumstance allegations — a Golden State legal add-on akin to a sentencing enhancement. Those special circumstances include committing great violence, being a danger to society, and the use of a weapon, among others.
On Monday, the judge will oversee a shorter second part of the trial without jurors to rule on the special circumstance allegations.