From inside a cage for prisoners in Courtroom 14 of the Ventura County Courthouse on June 4, Bryn Spejcher rested her forehead against the bars, waiting to be arraigned for murder.
When her name was called following a half-hour wait, Spejcher, dressed in a blue prison jumpsuit with an orange T-shirt, did not enter a plea but rather agreed to a continuance requested by her public defender.
She’s due back in court July 6.
In a case that has shocked the community, the 27-year-old audiologist for UCLA Health, who moved to Thousand Oaks last year, has been charged with murder in the stabbing death of 26-year-old Chad O’Melia.
O’Melia, who worked at a Camarillo accounting firm and was studying to be a CPA, was found nonresponsive shortly after 1 a.m. May 28 inside his home at Casa de Oaks, a condominium complex on Maegan Place just off Thousand Oaks Boulevard.
As to the relationship between O’Melia and Spejcher, police have said only that the two were in a short-term dating relationship.
Ventura County Sheriff’s Office homicide investigators took Spejcher, a native of the suburbs of Chicago, into custody June 1 after a four-night stay in the hospital for injuries police say were self-inflicted.
Capt. Garo Kuredjian, sheriff’s department spokesperson, said officers responding to a disturbance call from Casa de Oaks found the 140-pound, 5-foot-7- inch woman holding a knife close to O’Melia’s body.
“When she saw the deputies, she turned the knife on herself,” Kuredjian said.
Appearing in court this week, Spejcher’s forearms were covered in heavy bandages. Her booking photo shows lacerations to her face and neck. A witness at the scene said officers used a Taser on Spejcher before she was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Kuredjian said O’Melia’s two roommates witnessed the “chaotic and violent” event. The men have been cooperative with police, he said.
“Fortunately, any type of murder in any of our areas is very unusual,” Kuredjian said. “The circumstances and violence associated with this is what makes it stick out the most.”
Whether drugs or alcohol played a role in the killing is something “investigators are looking at very closely,” the captain said.
According to her biography on the UCLA Health website, Spejcher received her doctorate from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis last year, one of the top audiology programs in the nation.
In a video posted on the school’s Facebook page, Spejcher, who was diagnosed with hearing loss at age 3, talks about her childhood.
“It was difficult to try and be normal because I didn’t want to be the only one with hearing loss,” Spejcher says about her youth. “It was really hard for me to advocate for myself and be open about having hearing loss. . . . I was very involved in sports and music and trying to get good grades in classes. I wanted to blend in with everybody else.”
A member of the American Academy of Audiology and the American Speech Language- Hearing Association, her specialties include adult and pediatric diagnostics, auditory brainstem response testing, hearing aids and cochlear implants.
“I’m excited to become an audiologist,” Spejcher says in a 2016 video. “I’m ready. And I want to work with patients who have hearing loss, I want to give them hearing aids, I want to give them cochlear implants, I want to be the best audiologist that I can be.”
She’s been working for UCLA Health Thousand Oaks since moving to T.O.
Spejcher has no prior criminal history that the sheriff’s department is aware of, Kuredjian said. She was set free on $510,000 bail.