Livingston — A Walker man who stabbed his 7- months- pregnant wife and killed their unborn child while high on synthetic marijuana in 2012 took an eleventh-hour plea deal Thursday, days before his trial was to begin.
After changing his plea from not guilty by reason of insanity to a plea of no contest, Jeffrey Reynolds received a 20-year sentence.
He was given 15 years for attempted second-degree murder of his wife, Paula Reynolds, who has since divorced him, and 20 years for first-degree feticide of the child, who has been called “baby Isaac” by Paula Reynolds’ mother. The punishments will run concurrently, and Reynolds will receive credit for the approximately three years he already has spent behind bars. The state dismissed a third charge of battery of a police officer resulting in medical attention, according to court documents.
“The plea was entered after obtaining the approval from the victim and her family,” the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office wrote in a news release.
In July, the court unsealed a 24-page letter Reynolds wrote to state District Judge Brenda Ricks in which he discusses his family life and his affection for his wife and the son they had a few years before the attack. He also addresses the day of the stabbing and argues for a lesser charge. The letter offers insight into a defense Reynolds might have pursued had the case gone before a jury.
“In an effort to not break the law by purchasing ‘legal weed,’ I was deceived or poisoned by a real company I easily found during a quick ‘Google’ search. Imagine you buying a new brand of wine to try out, but when you took a big swallow, you started hallucinating, and seriously hurting your husband while reacting to the alternate reality in your mind. You knew how your body reacts to wine, so you thought there was no danger, but this wine was different,” Reynolds wrote to the judge.
He frequently emphasizes that for weeks or months before the attack, he smoked synthetic marijuana that he ordered online legally. The day of the stabbing, one product, WTF, was too damp to light, so he mixed it with Kush Pineapple Flavor.
“I am pretty sure that this is the combination that caused this terrible tragedy,” he wrote. “My memory is very sketchy regarding what took place as soon as I inhaled the smoke. I remember being extremely affraid (sic) for my life and wanting to call 911. I thought I could move things with my mind and thought I was some sort of supernatural being. I had what seemed like hundreds of thoughts in my mind at once and felt outside my body.”
Reynolds is a tall man. At 6 feet, 8 inches, he is so tall that when Paula Reynolds gave birth to their first child a few years earlier, he could see over the doctors’ partition while they made the Caesarian incision and removed the child.
“I watched in horror as the doctors cut Paula’s belly open, exposing her insides. They pulled out a huge baby boy that weighed 9 lb 1 oz, out of a very petite woman that was my wife. I was in shock not knowing what to do. They wanted me to cut the cord, but I was horrorfied (sic) by the thought of it.”
That image flashed in his mind the day of the attack, Reynolds claims. There were other thoughts — of Jesus being beaten and crucified, that he was in Jesus’ body, that the world was fake, like in the movie “The Matrix,” a spinning engine, and the feeling that he was “fighting a demon over possession of my body,” Reynolds wrote.
In a 2013 hearing, Livingston Parish Deputy Sheriff Jeff Beatty described arriving at the scene. The deputy had heard Reynolds threaten his wife while on the phone with 911. Then he heard her scream while Reynolds ranted semi-incoherently.
When Beatty arrived at the home, Paula Reynold’s torso had been “cut open” but the fetus was still attached by the umbilical cord. Responders swaddled the child, but it was already dead.
Reynolds also cut his wife’s chest and throat, the DA’s Office wrote Thursday. His weapon was a paring knife.
Two doctors wrote reports on Reynold’s mental health, though all the documents were sealed by the court. In his letter, Reynolds includes what he indicates are quotes from his sanity commission report.
One doctor allegedly diagnosed him with “hallucinogen induced psychosis.” Another wrote that Reynolds “had begun to lose touch with reality on the days prior to his crime, and he had a psychotic break with reality on the day of the crime. Mr. Reynolds remained psychotic for some time after the crime,” according to quotes in Reynold’s letter.
There are also references that Reynolds suffered from some kind of depression or anxiety disorder, which he self-medicated with the synthetic marijuana.
One doctor remarked that Reynolds appeared to possess average to above-average intelligence, while another said his answers on an exam did not indicate he was trying to “feign psychopathology.”
However, Reynolds’ letters indicate the reports were lengthy documents, much of which is not included in his correspondence with the judge.
For example, one doctor promised to address voluntary intoxication, but his discussion of the topic is absent from the letter.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.