A Missoula woman who is accused of trying to drown her infant son in the Clark Fork River near St. Regis pleaded no contest to two counts of criminal endangerment during a court appearance last Monday morning.
Sherri Renee Telnas, 34, was facing an attempted deliberate homicide charge after allegedly attempting to drown her 10-month-old son on April 16.
Telnas pleaded no contest to the two lesser charges as part of a plea agreement with the Mineral County Attorney's Office.
According to the plea, the new counts allege that Telnas knowingly engaged in conduct that created "substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury" to her son by submerging him in the Clark Fork River and then transporting him to the Mineral Community Hospital without a seatbelt or proper restraints.
According to a complaint filed by Mineral County Attorney Shaun Donovan, Telnas appeared at the Mineral Community Hospital on the afternoon of the incident and told employees that she had tried to drown her child. An x-ray of the boy showed that there was a significant amount of water in his lungs.
Hospital employees immediately called the Mineral County Sheriff's Office and Sheriff Hugh Hopwood and Undersheriff Mike Johnson arrived at the hospital and arrested Telnas.
During questioning Telnas said that "bad thoughts or voices" had told her to try to drown her child.
Donovan said that Jackson Telnas has recovered fully and is living with his father in Missoula.
Telnas underwent mental evaluation at the Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs as well as through the state forensic psychologist William Stratford.
According to the plea agreement, the state hospital and Stratford gave conflicting reports. The state hospital determined that Telnas was not prepared to enter no contest pleas, while Stratford concluded otherwise.
The maximum sentence for two counts of criminal endangerment is 20 years. The plea agreement states that Telnas is to have the sentence committing to the Department of Public Health and Human Services for the full 20 years suspended.
If the state accepts Telnas's plea, she will be subject to probation for 20 years and will have to enter chemical dependency and/or psychological counseling treatment, as well as any other treatment recommended by her probation officer. Telnas will be legally required to stay in contact with her psychiatrist and take any medications required. She will not be allowed to possess or use alcohol or drugs. She will also not be allowed to have contact with her son or any other child less than 15 years of age without the prior consent of her probation officers and treatment providers.
Telnas is scheduled for sentencing on Jan. 12 when a judge will decide whether or not to accept the plea bargain that has been agreed upon by Telnas and both attorneys involved in the case.
The 20-year probation sentence is a significant step down from the possible sentence Telnas faced before. The maximum sentence for attempted deliberate homicide is life in prison or death.