Woman accused in stepson’s death to have mental competency evaluation

Melynie Tyalan-Curtis

A decision on whether a Santa Fe woman accused of killing her stepson in 2018 is competent to stand trial was delayed Wednesday following a hearing in which state prosecutors disputed a mental health examination.

Melynie Tyalan-Curtis, 23, was charged with abuse of a child under age 12 resulting in death and multiple counts of child abuse after 5-year-old Jayden Curtis was strangled in September 2018.

Tyalan-Curtis, 21, called 911 to report she had found Jayden unconscious in a bathtub. He was airlifted to University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, where medical personnel told police his injuries were not consistent with drowning.

Jayden remained unconscious, and his parents took him off life support a few days later.

According to court records, Tyalan-Curtis, a mother of three who had a history of chronic depression and postpartum depression, eventually confessed she had "gotten angry" with Jayden and strangled him.

More than two years later, the court has not determined whether Curtis can stand trial. Evaluations by court-appointed doctors with the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute and a doctor retained by the defense had conflicting findings.

At Wednesday's hearing, prosecutors argued against evaluations conducted by Dr. Simone Viljoen, a forensic psychologist hired by the defense to assess Curtis. 

Dr. Erika Johnson-Jimenez testified on behalf of the state there were issues with some of the testing done by Viljoen in February.

Another hearing is scheduled in July before state District Judge T. Glenn Ellington.

"Because of the issues at hand, it is a complex competency proceeding and therefore has taken more time than normal," Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett Macias said.

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