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No prison time for Bryn Spejcher, convicted in cannabis-induced killing

After a jury found her guilty in December of involuntary manslaughter in a killing triggered by cannabis psychosis, Bryn Spejcher was sentenced Tuesday to two years probation and no prison time


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After a jury found her guilty in December of involuntary manslaughter in a killing triggered by cannabis psychosis, Bryn Spejcher was sentenced Tuesday to two years probation and no prison time.


The sentence drew sobs of relief from Spejcher and her loved ones while family members of the victim, 26-year-old Chad O'Melia of Thousand Oaks, exclaimed in shock and anger. “Oh my God!” they said.


Ventura County Superior Court Judge David Worley said his decision was based on the lack of culpability, asserting the “senseless” killing early the morning of May 28, 2018, was propelled by the psychotic episode that experts for the prosecution and defense attributed to the bong hits of marijuana Spejcher and O’Melia smoked.


“From that point forward, she had no control over her actions,” Worley said before announcing probation and a suspended prison sentence of four years. The incarceration could be imposed if Spejcher, who turns 33 on Thursday and lived in Thousand Oaks at the time of the crime, violates probation. The sentence also includes 100 hours of community service focused on raising awareness about the effects of marijuana-induced psychosis.


Moments after the verdict, the victim’s father, Sean O’Melia, accused Worley of bias and said the ruling set a dangerous precedent.


 “He just gave everyone in the state of California who smokes marijuana a license to kill someone,” he said.


Spejcher’s father, Mike Spejcher, declined comment. Her lawyer, Bob Schwartz, said he was happy for the family.

“Judge Worley did the right and courageous thing,” Schwartz said.


Spejcher and O’Melia initially met at a dog park and had been dating for just weeks before they smoked marijuana together at his apartment in Thousand Oaks late the night of May 27, 2018. Testimony showed that under the influence of the psychotic episode, she stabbed O’Melia more than 100 times with different knives, also stabbing herself.


When law enforcement arrived shortly after midnight, O’Melia was covered in a pool of blood. Spejcher was screaming hysterically and holding a knife she plunged into her neck. Law enforcement officers used a Taser and several baton blows to disarm her and then called for paramedics in actions her family said saved her life.


Spejcher’s lawyers said during the trial that she was “involuntarily intoxicated,” and claimed O’Melia had pressured and intimidated her into taking the last bong hit. Under California criminal law, people are responsible for their actions when impaired by alcohol or drugs unless their intoxication was involuntary.


The jurors rejected the defense’s argument. They deliberated for less than four hours before finding her guilty of involuntary manslaughter on Dec. 1.


During the trial, the prosecution portrayed Spejcher as a callous, narcissistic party girl who just wanted to get high the night she killed O’Melia. At the sentencing hearing, her parents and others painted a dramatically different picture, focusing on her hearing impairment and her work before the crime as a licensed audiologist.


“She has worked her whole life helping others,” her father, Mike Spejcher, said.

Bryn Spejcher also spoke during the sentencing, noting she had been accused repeatedly of showing no remorse. Sobbing, she repeatedly apologized to Sean O’Melia.


“My actions have ripped your family apart,” she said. “I am broken and aching inside. I hurt that you never see Chad again.”


The hearing was held in a courtroom so crowded spectators sat in the jury box and others stayed in the hallway, tuning into a livestreamed broadcast. The hearing was punctuated by drama too with Sean O’Melia jumping to his feet to interrupt Spejcher’s attorney and then minutes later walking out of the courtroom in frustration.


The day before the hearing, family and friends of Chad O'Melia marched in front of the county government center, urging a sentence that included prison time. They carried signs that said, “108 Stab Wounds Is A Serious Crime,” and “Judge Worley, Do The Right Thing.”


O’Melia was 26 when he was killed. He was from Santa Clarita and had graduated from Chico State University. He lived in a condo in Thousand Oaks with two roommates and his dog and was working at an accounting firm and studying to be a certified public accountant.


He was kind, motivated and everybody’s friend. He owned a laugh that drew people to him, friends and family members said during the sentencing. They talked too about Michelle Larrivee, Chad’s mother who died in a diabetic coma less than two years after her son's death. Her friends said the death was caused by a broken heart.


Family and friends urged Worley to impose prison time on Spejcher.


“There is no winner in this tragedy,” said Brendan O’Melia, the victim’s uncle. “There can be, however, accountability.”

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