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The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA

Jody Kleinberg Staff Writer

10 April 1998

A Fulton woman accused of giving her two young daughters large amounts of prescription drugs so that they could “be with God” will stand trial on two counts of attempted murder.   Municipal Court Judge Frank Passalacqua on Thursday found that there was enough evidence against 49-year-old Debra Gialdella to warrant a Superior Court trial.

Sonoma County sheriff’s investigators testified that Gialdella gave each of her daughters two Vicodin pills, two Soma pills, two Benadryl tablets, six Prozac pills and possibly some wine before leaving them in her bed on March 22. Gialdella also took pills herself and left a suicide note on the bed with the two girls, investigators said.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the house, they found the girls unconscious and Gialdella hiding under a blanket in a storage room nearby, said sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Contos, during Thursday’s preliminary hearing.  A doctor at Sutter Medical Center told investigators that one of the girls – a 9-year-old – would probably have died if she had not received immediate medical care, Contos said.At one point, the girl was breathing so slowly that emergency staff brought in a respirator, he said.  She also had her stomach pumped.

He did not provide any information about the other girl, an 11-year-old. Both girls have recovered and are currently in the Valley of the Moon Children’s Center, officials said.  Gialdella has pleaded innocent to the charges. Her attorney, Elliot Daum, has said that at the time of the incident she was under psychiatric care and was unable to get the medication she needed.

She was also distraught over the anniversary of the death of her son, who died of an accidental drug overdose three years ago. He would have been 21 on March 16.  Sheriff’s deputies went to the house after one of Gialdella’s other daughters, Katherine Mulkey, called 911. Mulkey, who lives in Georgia, appeared in court on Thursday and testified that she became worried when her mother sounded “sad and different” on the phone and told her she had given the girls Benadryl because they “hadn’t been feeling well and needed to sleep.”

Mulkey said she had called to “check-in and say goodnight” and that early in the conversation she had spoken to the 9-year-old. Later, while she was talking to Gialdella, she said she heard the older girl “screaming really loud, like she was in pain.  “When she asked to talk to one of the girls again, Gialdella told her that both had already gone to sleep. When Gialdella said the girls “were going to be with God and going to heaven,” and that they were “going to be with their deceased brother,” Mulkey said she decided to call for help.

Gialdella was groggy when sheriff’s detectives found her, but after receiving medical treatment, she was taken to the sheriff’s department and questioned. Deputy Ed Hoener said that during the interview, Gialdella admitted that she had given the girls drugs. “She told me she knew they would die,” he said.  Daum said that at the time of the interview, Gialdella was confused and did not know what she was saying. For example, when Hoener asked her the date, he noted that she said it was March 17, 1977.  She also told Hoener that she had just given birth to her son.  Daum indicated that the girls may have taken the drugs themselves and said there is no evidence to prove what Gialdella gave the girls.  Gialdella is scheduled to be arraigned in Superior Court at 9 a.m. on May 9.   PHOTO: b&w mug: Gialdella