Bryn Spejcher appears in a booking photo. (Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

A California woman who previously practiced as an audiologist is currently on trial in Ventura County for involuntary manslaughter over the stabbing death of a man she briefly dated in 2018.

Key to the relatively minor charge she faces is her chemically-induced state of mind at the time of the bloodletting: she was high, authorities said.

Bryn Spejcher, 32, is accused of stabbing Chad O’Melia, 26, 108 times in his Thousand Oaks condo in the Conejo Valley, roughly 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, around 1 a.m. on Memorial Day 2018.

First charged with murder, prosecutors asked for the lesser charge in late September of their own volition after a forensic psychologist submitted a report that found she was “acutely psychotic” during the extreme bout of violence. The judge overseeing the case eventually granted the state’s requested reduction.

The apparent cause of Spejcher’s psychosis was three hits from a bong loaded with marijuana. After the last bong hit, she admittedly flew into a rampage that, with three separate knives, took the life of the man she barely knew – and her dog. She seemingly tried to and nearly killed herself that day.

The state’s request 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 are now trying to limit the efficacy of how the defense might use the agreed-upon diagnosis, according to the Ventura County Star. A pre-trial motion sought to keep jurors from hearing arguments about involuntary intoxication – and specifically the idea that maybe more than marijuana was in the bong that night. Judge David Worley denied both motions.

Prosecutors appear intent to try and dispute that argument.

“The law says when someone voluntarily ingests an intoxicant and bad things happen, like a DUI, the person responsible is the person who voluntarily ingests the intoxicant and does the bad thing,” Senior Deputy District Attorney Audry Nafziger said in her opening statement, according to a courtroom report by the Star. “We don’t get to blame other people when we do something bad because we wanted to get high.”

After Spejcher got high, she thought she was dead – the accepted psychotic episode. According to Nafziger, she believed the only way to 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.

In the end, the man she dated for just a few weeks was stabbed in his throat, chest, knee, head, and heart.

After allegedly killing her husky, Arya, whom she is said to have loved, Spejcher began slashing at her neck with a serrated bread knife – cutting her jugular vein. Drenched in blood, she continued to slash and cut herself while kneeling over the man bleeding out – despite being shocked over and over by police with a stun gun, body-worn camera footage shown in court last week reportedly showed.

The attempt on her life only stopped after the ninth blow from a police officer’s steel baton, the footage also revealed.

She reportedly lowered her head and cried as the video played. Spejcher’s mother reportedly began to sob as well – and then fell onto the courtroom floor. The judge paused the proceedings so the grieving woman could be helped up and out.

The defendant will testify in her defense as the trial goes on.

Her defense says she has no history of mental illness, so there was no way she could have known that smoking marijuana would cause a psychotic break. Defense attorney Robert Schwartz has also said that his client was pressured to smoke by O’Melia that night.

Spejcher has been out on bail since 2018.

She now faces a maximum sentence of 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.

She has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.

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 “The more she stabbed him, the more she felt she was bringing herself back to life,” the prosecutor in the case told the jury.  Read More  

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