California woman gets probation for fatally stabbing man she dated, causing 108 ‘sharp-force injuries’

A California judge this week sentenced a woman to two years’ probation for involuntary manslaughter in the fatal stabbing of a man she was dating in 2018, according to attorneys and court records.

Bryn Spejcher, 33, faced up to five years in prison for stabbing Chad O’Melia, 26, in his Thousand Oaks home on May 28, 2018, after the pair had smoked marijuana together.

Experts for both the defense and the prosecution concluded the high-potency pot she smoked caused her to slip into a psychotic state.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Worley sentenced Spejcher on Tuesday to two years’ probation, as well as community service. She must complete “100 hours of public education on the dangers of THC consumption,” according to Ventura County court documents.

Audry Nafziger, who prosecuted the case for the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, said Thursday that the judge’s sentence did not serve justice and that it was “problematic.”

“It sets a very dangerous precedent,” Nafziger said. “It’s also a slap in the face to the victim’s family and speaks poorly to victims’ relief everywhere that … it’s OK to smoke marijuana and butcher someone with three knives. But it’s not OK to smoke marijuana and drive and kill someone. That will send you to jail. … It doesn’t square.”

Susan Iwakoshi, left, and Anne-Marie Kessenich were part of a protest Monday, the day before Spejcher’s sentencing.Tom Kisken / The Star / USA Today Network

Spejcher’s attorneys, Michael Goldstein and Robert Schwartz, said in a statement Thursday that the sentencing reflects that their client was in a “cannabis induced psychotic breakdown” during the violent episode.

They said O’Melia purchased and provided the high-potency marijuana “that included a clear warning that it was for ‘high tolerance users only.’ That warning was presented at trial and for that reason, he was on notice of the potential dangers to a naive user.”

As evidence of Spejcher’s psychotic state, Schwartz pointed out that not only did she fatally stab O’Melia, but she also stabbed herself numerous times in the neck, almost killing herself, and she also stabbed her “beloved” Siberian husky. The dog survived.

Body camera video from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, which was introduced as evidence in the trial, showed a deputy using a stun gun on her four times and another deputy hitting a knife with a metal baton multiple times before finally knocking it away from her, Schwartz said Thursday.

Both Nafziger and Schwartz said marijuana can be dangerous to certain people, cause psychosis and prompt violence.

In September, prosecutors reduced a charge of murder against Spejcher to involuntary manslaughter after a forensic psychologist determined she lost her cognitive abilities because she was in the throes of psychosis, Nafziger said. She said there was no other drugs or alcohol in Spejcher’s blood during the stabbing. 

A jury convicted Spejcher of involuntary manslaughter in December.

Schwartz applauded Worley’s decision and said the judge “acted courageously in giving her a probationary sentence without imposing any jail time.”

“The judge’s sentence was strongly based on the evidence he heard in the trial,” he said.

Nafziger said Spejcher deserved prison time, noting she caused O’Melia 108 “sharp-force injuries.” Nafziger accused Worley of bias.

“When you smoke weed and you’re a white, young, privileged … upper-middle-class woman who bamboozles an old, white male judge, and you get to walk, I don’t know how to reconcile that for all the other criminals and victims in the country,” Nafziger said.

Worley could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Using marijuana recreationally is legal for adults 21 and older in California, as it was in 2018, when the stabbing occurred.

Spejcher went over to O’Melia’s home about 10 p.m. May 27. The stabbings occurred shortly after midnight, the prosecutor said.

Schwartz said the pair had been seeing each other for about three weeks. Spejcher worked as an audiologist, and O’Melia was an accountant.

“It’s a horrible tragedy all the way around,” Schwartz said. “It’s a tragedy for the victim and his family, and it’s a tragedy for my client and her family. As we said in the courtroom, ‘Nobody walked away a winner.’”

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