A 10-month-old infant has made a full recovery in the few days since his mother allegedly tried to drown him in the Clark Fork River, apparently at the behest of imaginary voices.
Sherri Renee Telnas, 34, of Missoula, was still soaking wet last Wednesday afternoon when she carried her infant son into Mineral Community Hospital in Superior. Telnas told emergency room personnel that she had waded into the river and immersed herself and her son, Jackson, in the water, according to court records filed Monday by Mineral County Attorney Shaun Donovan.
When law enforcement arrived at the hospital and asked Telnas what had happened to the child, she told officers, "I tried to drown my baby," according to records.
Telnas is charged with attempted deliberate homicide in Mineral County District Court, and is scheduled for arraignment Wednesday.
A medical examination indicated the child had been submerged under water "for an appreciable period of time and had water in his lungs," which was visible in an X-ray photograph, the records state. The infant's blood and alcohol saturation had diminished, and he was taken to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Community Medical Center in Missoula for further treatment.
The child was released Friday into his father's care, and there are no signs of permanent brain damage, according to the father, Jacob Telnas, 25, who now has full custody of his son.
Sherri Telnas was in a depressive state and remembers little of what happened last week, Jacob said Monday during a telephone interview. She is currently undergoing a psychological evaluation at Pathways Treatment Center in Kalispell.
"She gave him CPR, that's how he lived," Jacob said. "I asked her what changed her mind, and she said she just couldn't believe what she was doing. She doesn't remember what was going on while she was doing it, but then she suddenly came to her senses and started to revive Jack."
In an interview with investigators at the Mineral County Sheriff's Department, Telnas said she had driven with her infant son from Missoula toward Mineral County. Telnas exited the highway and drove "to the river" at a location she could not specify - likely the Clark Fork River along Interstate 90 between Superior and St. Regis, records state.
Telnas has spoken to his wife daily since the incident, and said she does not recall telling authorities that "bad thoughts or voices" led her to attempt to drown her son, as court records state.
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"I've been able to talk to her and she is doing a lot better. She understands what happened, and she is dying about it," he said. "She doesn't remember what she said, but she's sedated. It kills me that I can't trust her, but in the situation that I'm in, I really can't trust her. She might be blocking it out."
For more than a year, the Telnases managed Pack Rat Mini Storage in Missoula, near Blue Mountain Road, and lived in a home adjacent to the business. The couple rented the home from their boss, Bryce Knuckles, who owns the 600-unit storage facility, but spends his winters in Arizona and Utah.
With Sherri facing attempted murder charges, Jacob is left to care for his son, and because the couple managed the business in tandem, he has lost his job and his home.
"I'm packed up and ready, with no place to go," Jacob said. "I've already trained the woman who's going to be replacing me on the job. She's ready to move in."
Knuckles said Monday that he would allow Telnas to work for another two weeks, in order to earn his final paycheck, but needed the tenant out of the rental house by week's end.
"I need a manager in here full time. This is not a part-time job," Knuckles said. "I'll do what I can to help him in this difficult situation, but I'm not geared up like the federal government to pay a guy for not working. If there's any way I could keep him I would."
Telnas agreed that he would need help in order to continue managing the facility, but he had hoped to enlist his brothers for the job.
"I'm not going to disagree with him; there's no possible way I can run it by myself," he said. "I just thought my family could watch Jack, and I could get help and continue to work. But the boss said he's got people lined up to come in and replace me."
"It's just been stress after stress after stress. I'm just going to have to take things one step at a time," Telnas said.
Reporter Tristan Scott can be reached at 523-5264 or at email@example.com.