A California woman who stabbed a man she was dating 100 times and killed him, before turning the knife on herself and her dog, has been handed 100 hours of community service.
Bryn Spejcher, 32, was given the astonishingly low sentence following psychiatrists’ ruling that the tragedy was ‘100 percent’ caused by cannabis-induced psychosis, which she suffered after taking two hits of the victim’s bong.
The judge ruled that Spejcher ‘experienced a psychotic break from reality’ and ‘had no control over her actions’ when she killed Chad O’Melia, then 26, on Memorial Day weekend 2018.
She will spend the 100 hours educating others on marijuana-induced psychosis and two years on probation – but has promised to spend the rest of her life debunking the myth that cannabis is harmless.
O’Melia’s family cried when the sentence was read out at Ventura Superior Court, with the victim’s father warning it gave ‘everyone who smokes marijuana in this state a license to kill’.
Bryn Spejcher, 32, hides her face as she walks into court today where she was given just 100 hours of community service
Bryn Spejcher, an audiologist from Chicago, underwent emergency surgery after stabbing herself in the face and neck during a weed-induced coma
Campaigners told DailyMail.com that the judge’s ruling was ‘unforeseen’ in cannabis psychosis cases, while Spejcher’s attorney Robert Schwartz said the case should act as a warning against the use of ‘increasingly potent’ marijuana.
‘We will see more tragic cases like this as the availability of high-potency marijuana spreads across the country.’
Spejcher, an audiologist, who is originally from Chicago but lives in Thousand Oaks, California, was found guilty of manslaughter in December 2023, following a dramatic and heart-wrenching trial.
At the time, Spejcher, who is partially deaf, described how she’d taken one puff of a bong but ‘did not want to smoke anymore’.
She said she felt ‘pressured’ by O’Melia, who was a regular smoker and who she’d been dating for a month.
Within minutes of inhaling the potent cannabis-infused vapor for the second time, Spejcher began ‘hearing and seeing things that weren’t there’, and believing she was dead, and that she had to stab O’Melia in order to bring herself back to life.
Some of the country’s top forensic psychiatrists concluded that this experience was ‘100 percent’ consistent with previous accounts of cannabis-induced psychosis.
‘We know, pretty conclusively, that marijuana can lead to psychiatric illness,’ Dr Timothy Fong, faculty leadership of the Cannabis Research Initiative at University of California, Los Angeles and clinical psychiatrist, told DailyMail.com.
Sentencing today, Judge Worley said: ‘The task [of sentencing] is made all the more difficult by the knowledge that the decision will impact good people.’
But he added that he does not believe further incarceration is necessary.
The sentencing proceedings featured closing statements from close members of both the Spejcher and O’Melia family.
Spejcher’s brother, mother, father, grandmother and one of her oldest friends spoke of her ‘life spent helping others’, referring to her numerous paid and voluntary roles assisting deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
‘Helping others was the only career goal she ever had,’ said her mother, Laurie Pearce.
Meanwhile her father Michael told the court room that his daughter had spent her time on probation volunteering at her local pets store and learning sign language during the evening; ‘in the hope that maybe one day she could get back to helping those in the hearing impairment world’.
In her closing statement, Spejcher said: ‘I wish I could go back in time and prevent this tragedy from happening.
‘I wish I had known more about the dangers of marijuana. Had I known. I would never have smoked it that night or at all.’
She promised to dedicate her life to sharing information on marijuana and it’s harms.
Spejcher was said to have cried through the first half of her three hour testimony
Caught in the crossfire was Spejcher’s adored husky Arya who suffered multiple stab wounds but surived, only to be hit by a car and killed months later
Spejcher trained as an audiologist to help hard-of-hearing children like herself; she was born partially deaf
On the night in question, the young woman arrived at O’Melia’s Thousand Oaks condo at around 10.30pm after he’d invited her over.
The pair had met in a local dog park roughly a month before and had been dating for a few weeks, court documents state.
An hour and a half into the meet up, the pair went to O’Melia’s patio where he prepared and smoked cannabis from a bong – a device which filters the smoke using water, enabling the user to inhale more without coughing.
Chad O’Melia, a trainee accountant, was stabbed 108 times. He was said to be a ‘regular’ weed user
Spejcher testified that she asked him for a hit from the bong. He prepared it for her and she inhaled. All she felt, she told the court, was ‘burning and coughing’.
Some 15 minutes later, when the effects had failed to kick in, O’Melia added more cannabis to the device, generating more smoke, and, according to Spejcher said: ‘something like, let’s make this more intense for you…or more f**ked up’.
In her testimony, Spejcher claimed that she did not want to smoke more but felt pressured.
‘He got up from his chair and turned the bong toward my face, rushed it to my face and was pressuring me, “Hurry up, hurry up, you’ve got to inhale,” she said, according to the testimony reported by the Ventura County Star.
‘It all happened so fast. I felt like I couldn’t say no, and I inhaled out of the bong.’
Immediately after the second hit, she began to feel unwell and ran to the bathroom to vomit, before lying on the couch. She then described the onset of a series of disturbing psychiatric symptoms.
Spejcher described seeing and hearing ‘things that weren’t there’, ‘feeling like I was a dead body’ and seeing her corpse ‘from up above’.
Her hands, which she used to grab the bread knife that penetrated O’Melia’s abdomen, she saw as someone else’s ‘like in a movie’.
‘…and then it went black’.
It was then that she continued to stab O’Melia, followed by her beloved dog Arya, and then herself in the neck. She only stopped when police arrived at the scene and hit her nine times with a baton.
During the ferocious attack, Spejcher recalled hearing voices saying things like, ‘keep going, don’t stop, you’re almost there, you can do this.’
She claims to not remember anything beyond this point – until she woke up in hospital having undergone surgery to repair catastrophic stab wounds to her face and neck, several hours later.
Dr Kris Mohandie, forensic psychiatrist and expert witness, told the jury: ‘[Spejcher’s] behavior is well documented, in my opinion, of psychosis.
‘The nature of it, the spontaneous things she was saying…it was consistent with the delusion and the command hallucinations and voices that she claimed she was hearing later on.’
He added that her use of cannabis caused ‘delusions and hallucinations,’ and she’d ‘lost touch’ with reality.
Dr Mohandie warned against widespread legalization of the psychoactive drug.
‘It’s yet another drug that now people think is safe because it’s legal and now more people are trying it — [But] it’s more potent than it’s ever been. And it’s problematic,’ said Dr Mohandie, who has testified in 80 cases before, including several involving marijuana.
Spejcher is said to have only been high a handful of times in her life, and claimed to have felt ‘pressured’ to take a second hit of the bong on the night of the attack
‘So people say, “It’s just marijuana,” and they try and make it seem like it’s insignificant and how could that possibly happen.
‘Well, that doesn’t really fit with my professional experience.
A major review of hospitalizations in Canada in the years since legalization published in October found a 40 percent increase in cannabis-induced psychosis admissions linked to recent ‘commercialization’ of the drug.
The authors warned of the harms of ‘rapid expansion’ of the cannabis market.
Other research has shown that regularly smoking cannabis can increase the risk of developing psychosis five-fold.
Studies have long shown that cannabis products featuring high-potency THC – the psychoactive chemical in cannabis that makes you ‘high’ — can cause serious mental health problems, such as psychosis and schizophrenia.
Experts believe the substance causes an imbalance in hormones in the brain — including feel-good chemical dopamine, triggering mental illness.
Although the risks are thought to mostly affect regular users who have been exposed to the drug over many years, doctors are increasingly seeing mental illness in non-regular uses.
This is thought to be due to the rising level of THC in marijuana products available to purchase today – which can be up to 10 times the quantity that naturally occurs in the plant.
Dr Kris Mohandie, a forensic psychiatrist and expert witness in the Spejcher trial, warned in his testimony that ‘people with ‘no prior history of violence can consume cannabis, even during one session, and then proceed to commit acts of physical violence to themselves and to others’.