Disappointment at sentencing  

Four lifelong friends, from left, Robin Bianchi, Cynthia Salas, Susanne Norton and Lu Madison old a photo of Chad O'Melia, right, who was murdered and his mother, Michelle, who reportedly died of sadness after his death, as they meet in Stevenson Ranch in December to raise awareness about Chad's murder case. 121223. Dan Watson/ The Signal
Four lifelong friends, from left, Robin Bianchi, Cynthia Salas, Susanne Norton and Lu Madison old a photo of Chad O'Melia, right, who was murdered and his mother, Michelle, who reportedly died of sadness after his death, as they meet in Stevenson Ranch in December to raise awareness about Chad's murder case. 121223. Dan Watson/ The Signal
Share on facebook
Share
Share on twitter
Tweet
Share on email
Email

Family, DDA disappointed by probation given to woman convicted in 2018 stabbing death of Santa Clarita native 

A Ventura County judge sentenced a woman who stabbed a Santa Clarita native to death in 2018 to probation on Tuesday. 

Bryn Spejcher received two years’ probation and a suspended sentence for voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of Chad O’Melia, an outcome Senior Deputy District Attorney Audry Nafziger called “disappointing, but not surprising.” 

Nafziger argued previously to have sentencing considerations put forth that could have sent Spejcher to prison for up to four years, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office. 

However, state law gave wide discretion at sentencing to Judge David Worley, officials said. 

Worley called the circumstances of the case, which received international coverage due to the bizarre nature of the crime, highly unusual.  

The video showed Spejcher standing over O’Melia, whom she had just stabbed more than 100 times, appearing to respond to voices while trying to kill herself, Nafziger said, adding the incident very likely would have been a murder-suicide had deputies not arrived when they did. 

They used a baton and taser repeatedly to stop Spejcher. Her booking photo shows a rash of scars from the stab wounds around her neck.  

“There are a lot of lessons we can learn from this case,” Nafziger said in a phone interview Tuesday after Spejcher’s sentencing hearing.  

The Ventura County DA’s office initially charged Spejcher with second-degree murder. However, the charge was reduced once medical experts for the DA’s office and Spejcher concurred the defendant was experiencing “marijuana-induced psychosis” at the time of the stabbing. 

“I think the judge was really hung up on the idea that people smoked marijuana and don’t know that these types of things can happen,” said Nafziger, adding that when prosecutors spoke with jurors during voir dire prior to being seated on the jury, more than one-third said they had “bad experiences” with marijuana.  

Obviously, Spejcher’s reaction was not a normal one, but Nafziger said a horrific incident like this one points to a glaring lack of regulation for a drug with known psychoactive compounds. And while there is some regulation, she estimated about half the marijuana sold is still on the black market that lacks any form of regulation. 

“So what that really speaks to me with this case is the idea that we’re really in the infancy of understanding the dangerousness of marijuana,” Nafziger said, referring to the criminal justice system, adding that doctors and psychiatrists have been aware of the potential concerns for years. 

“But the courts haven’t been grappling with it,” she said. “Our office had to come to terms with it by reducing the charge once we realized what’s really going on here.”  

She also called on leaders in the marijuana market to step up and make testing available that can reveal if genetic markers exist in someone that could make them susceptible to such psychosis. She said other nations have been looking at such potential side effects for some time. 

Lu Madison was a friend of Chad O’Melia’s mother, Michelle Larrivee, and said she and a group of about 40 people showed up at the Ventura County courthouse Monday to protest the leniency Spejcher was expected to receive. 

“I spoke on behalf of my girlfriends and myself — I was the voice of the voiceless,” Madison said. 

Madison has attended every hearing for Spejcher since the death of Larrivee, one of her best friends since first grade. Larrivee died about 18 months after O’Melia’s death, with her friends citing the grief she carried over her son’s death as the main reason. 

“She really struggled with how brutally he was murdered and how he died,” she said, saying Larrivee refused to be photographed smiling after her son’s death. 

One of Madison’s frustrations with the process was her feeling that the outcome had been predetermined, and the impact statement she made fell on deaf ears. 

“It was all negative for us and (Monday), we went and stood in the rain and picketed for about three and a half hours, standing in the rain, saying our piece — but it didn’t matter,” she said. “So she stabbed someone to death and she got zero jail time,” Madison said. 

Sharing the sentiment, a frustrated Nafziger said she’s been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years, and right now, the system is “in a difficult place.” 

“My heart goes out to the O’Melia family, to endure all of this … I just think it’s a sad outcome for justice, for all victims, I think for our community,” she said. “I would guess that there will be many people who feel like the victims are coming up short again.”  

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS