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Laurel Michelle SCHLEMMER





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - She drowned her two young boys in the family tub because she thought she could be a better mother to her 7-year-old son “if the other two boys weren’t around and they would be better off in heaven.”
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: April 1, 2014
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: 1973
Victim profile: Her sons, Daniel, 6, and Luke, 3
Method of murder: Drowning
Location: McCandless, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Status: Found mentally incompetent to stand trial. Transferred to psychiatric hospital

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Pa. mom accused of drowning kids found mentally incompetent

April 8, 2014

PITTSBURGH - A jail psychiatrist says a Pennsylvania woman accused of drowning her two sons in a bathtub is mentally incompetent to stand trial.

On Monday, Dr. Christine Martone found that 40-year-old Laurel Michelle Schlemmer should be treated at a state institution to determine if she can stand trial in the future.

Detectives say the woman told them she tried to drown her 3- and 6-year-old sons by sitting on them in the tub after a third son left for school last Tuesday, April 1. They say she told investigators she heard "crazy voices" telling her to push the boys underwater.

The 3-year-old boy died on Tuesday while older brother Daniel Schlemmer, 6, was in critical condition. He died four days later, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Saturday.

Judge Jeffrey Manning also issued a gag order in the case Monday at the request of Schlemmer's attorney. That means no one involved may comment on the competency finding.


Laurel Schlemmer, Mother Accused Of Drowning Sons, Found Mentally Incompetent

By Joe Mandak - Associated Press

April 7, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A western Pennsylvania woman accused of drowning two of her sons in a bathtub was ordered Monday to a state mental hospital after a jail psychiatrist told a judge the defendant is mentally incompetent.

Dr. Christine Martone testified that Laurel Michelle Schlemmer is psychotic and suicidal and has a major depressive disorder. Schlemmer should be treated at Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township, about 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, before her condition is reviewed to determine if she can stand trial in the future, Martone said.

Judge Jeffrey Manning also issued a gag order in the case at the request of Schlemmer's attorney, Michael Machen. That prevents anyone associated with the case from commenting on the competency finding, which can be reviewed in 90 days.

County detectives said Schlemmer, 40, of McCandless, told them she was fully clothed when she sat on the boys, Daniel, 6, and Luke, 3, to hold them underwater Tuesday morning after their 7-year-old brother left for school.

Among other things, Schlemmer told police she heard "crazy voices" telling her to submerge the boys and she believed she could be a better mother to her oldest son and that the younger boys would be "better off in heaven," according to a police complaint.

In Pennsylvania, people are considered mentally competent to stand trial if they can distinguish between right and wrong and if they can assist their attorneys in their defense — even if their crime may have been fueled by delusions. So Schlemmer could eventually stand trial on criminal homicide and other charges even if she continues to maintain her behavior was fueled by the "crazy voices," provided prosecutors can prove she still realized the consequences.

A preliminary hearing on the charges that had been scheduled for Friday has been postponed indefinitely.

Luke died at UPMC Passavant Hospital, about a mile from the Schlemmer home, about an hour after his mother called 911 on Tuesday. Daniel was on life support until Saturday, when he died at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

County prosecutors did not immediately amend the criminal charges against Schlemmer to add a second count of criminal homicide after Daniel died, but they are expected to do that eventually.

The Pennsylvania Department of Welfare is reviewing the drownings and the family's contact with Allegheny County's Office of Children, Youth and Families. The county agency first contacted the family last year, after Schlemmer backed her van into the same two boys, according to police and her pastor. The county office determined that was an accident after consulting with doctors and the police, according to DPW spokeswoman Kait Gillis.


'Bathtub' mom's second son dead after drowning

By Kyle Peltz -

April 08, 2014

  • A mother is accused of drowning 2 of her kids in the bathtub after hearing ‘crazy voices’

  • Second child died Saturday after being on life support

  • The mom, Laurel Schlemmer, could face the death penalty if sought

A Pennsylvania mother has allegedly admitted to drowning two of her sons in the bathtub so she could be a better mother to her oldest son. According to police documents, 40-year-old Laurel Schlemmer told investigators she drowned her two young boys in the family tub because she thought she could be a better mother to her 7-year-old son “if the other two boys weren’t around and they would be better off in heaven.”

3-year-old Luke Schlemmer died Tuesday, and 6-year-old Daniel Schlemmer died Saturday after reportedly being on life support for a coma caused after his brain suffered from oxygen deprivation.


Second boy in bathtub incident has no brain activity

By Paula Reed Ward - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 3, 2014

The second of two children held down in a bathtub of a McCandless home Tuesday has no brain activity and is on life support.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini told Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning that information during a short hearing for their mother, Laurel Schlemmer, 40, who is charged with homicide and related charges.

The younger son, Luke, who was 3, died Tuesday.

The older son, Daniel, 6, is at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

A third son, who is 7 and was at school at the time of the incident, was not harmed.

According to police, Ms. Schlemmer, a former teacher, called 911 Tuesday morning and reported that her children might have drowned in the bathtub. She later told police that she sat on the two younger boys in the bathtub of water so she could send them to heaven, police said.

Judge Manning ordered that Ms. Schlemmer undergo an evaluation at the Allegheny County Jail's behavior clinic, and also gave permission for a psychiatrist retained by the family to evaluate the woman later today.

Ms. Schlemmer, who appeared in the courtroom via video monitor from the jail wearing a black suicide vest, said nothing and looked blank.

Her defense attorney, Michael Machen, had no comment following the hearing.

Northern Regional police last year investigated an incident in which Ms. Schlemmer hit her two youngest children with her car at her parents' home on Aviary Court in Marshall Township.

Chief Robert Amann said doctors at UPMC Passavant-Cranberry contacted police April 16, 2013, after the children were brought there for treatment.

"Mrs. Schlemmer advised the doctors that she had accidentally run over her two children while moving her vehicle at her parents' home in Marshall Township," the chief said in a statement.

The Allegheny County district attorney's office has said it was not contacted during that investigation and reports from Northern Regional regarding that incident are now part of the homicide investigation.

Kait Gillis, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare, said their records indicate that Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families workers evaluated the situation while the children were in the hospital and determined it was an accident. Because of that determination, the state was not called in to investigate, she said.

Judge Manning, as a formality, also denied bond.


Pennsylvania mom says ‘crazy voices’ drove her to drown children

Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, of McCandless, Pa., was arrested for drowning her 3-year-old son Luke and critically injuring his 6-year-old brother Daniel. She allegedly told detectives that 'crazy voices' told her to sit on the children in a bathtub.

By Joe Kemp - New York Daily News

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Pennsylvania woman claimed “crazy voices” told her to sit on her two children in a bathtub — drowning her 3-year-old son and leaving his 6-year-old brother critically injured, police said.

Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, of McCandless — located just north of Pittsburgh — was ordered held without bail after she was arraigned on charges that included criminal homicide, aggravated assault and child endangerment.

Schlemmer was arrested after she called 911 on Tuesday to report that she dragged the two unconscious boys — Luke, 3, and Daniel, 6 — out of the tub.

The deranged woman allegedly told Allegheny County investigators that she told the children to take off their pajamas and get into the bathtub after she put her 7-year-old son, who was not named, on a school bus about 8:40 a.m., court papers show.

“Schlemmer said after the boys got into the tub, she got into the tub ‘fully clothed’ and ‘crazy voices’ were telling her to push the boys into the water,” read a criminal complaint. “Schlemmer explained that at one point she [was] sitting on top of the boys while they were under the water in the tub.”

The woman told detectives that she “thought she could be a better mother” to her oldest son “if the other two boys weren’t around,” according to the court documents.

She also believed the to boys “would be better off in heaven.”

After pulling the children from the water, Schlemmer told police she didn’t attempt CPR because she didn’t know how to perform the procedure.

She allegedly tried to hide her wet clothes in a trash bag before paramedics responded to the scene.

Emergency workers rushed the little boys to UPMC Passavant Hospital, where Luke died. His older brother was transferred to a pediatric intensive care unit the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC, where he remained in critical condition on Wednesday.

Neighbors said they were stunned to hear the woman killed her child.

“I said hello to her and she seemed fine,” Jennie Leonard, who saw Schlemmer at the bus stop just moments before the tragic ordeal, told WPXI-TV.

“When the kids got on the bus, everybody waved as we always do.”

Court records show that Schlemmer has been in trouble at least once regarding the treatment of her children.

She was given a citation for leaving a toddler unattended in a parked car in Sept. 2009, the paperwork shows. It was not clear which child was left in the car, but cops said the interior of the vehicle reached a sweltering 112 degrees.

The child wasn’t hurt and Schlemmer was ordered to pay a small fine.



911 call paints picture of Pittsburgh-area mother accused of drowning son

Woman remained calm while talking to call-taker

By Moriah Balingit and Liz Navratil - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

April 2, 2014

Her report was halting, her voice sweetly high-pitched but calm.

“Um, my two sons,” Laurel Michelle Schlemmer told the 911 call-taker Tuesday morning. “I think that they’ve, they’ve drowned in our bathtub.”

It was just minutes after police said she had pushed the boys’ tiny bodies down into the water and sat on them, telling homicide detectives she believed she could be a better mother to her eldest son, a 7-year-old, if her youngest children “were in heaven.” She said she heard “crazy voices.”

By day’s end, Ms. Schlemmer would be charged in the death of 3-year-old Luke, who died within an hour of being rushed to UPMC Passavant, and with the attempted drowning of 6-year-old Daniel, who remained in critical condition Wednesday.

After the boys were unconscious, she pulled their limp bodies from the tub and laid them on the bathroom floor before peeling off her wet clothing and stuffing it in a garbage bag, she told police. That’s when she went into the study of her two-story home and finally called 911, at around 9:40 a.m.

In a roughly five-minute call with a call-taker at the Allegheny County 911 Center, authorities got a first glimpse into Ms. Schlemmer on that day, who stayed relatively calm through the duration of the call. At times, her voice shook slightly, as if she was about to cry. But she was exceedingly polite, calling the call-taker “sir” and hanging up with a “thank you” as paramedics arrived at her house.

And her first version of events — that she found her boys unconscious after they had been playing in the bathtub — would differ radically from what she would later tell police.

“OK, tell me exactly what happened,” the call-taker implored her.

“I, uh, let my 6- and 3-year old sons play in the bathtub a little bit before their bath this morning,” she said, breathing heavily. “And, uh, I was, and then I went to, to the restroom and, um, took longer than I should have or planned and then I came back. They’re unconscious.”

Later, the call-taker asked “Are they breathing?”

“It doesn’t look like it, sir,” she said, though she was in another room.

About three minutes into the call, the call-taker asks her to return to the bathroom to start CPR. But moments later, paramedics would arrive. She yelled for her elderly mother, who was in the home at the time, and arriving paramedics to come upstairs.

“Upstairs, Mom! Is Dad still here?” she asked. “I’ve got an emergency. Upstairs, sir.”

As the paramedics arrived, the call-taker asked, “Is there anything in their mouth?”

“Just water,” she replied.

Outwardly, the Schlemmers appeared to be a “typical sweet, loving family,” said Pastor Dan Hendley, of the North Park Church in McCandless, where the Schlemmers were members. Yet some close to the family noticed small signs that something was amiss with Ms. Schlemmer.

But the idea that she would kill one of the children never occurred to them, said Rev. Hendley.

“I knew that there were some anxiety issues, that she had had and that they were working through those with some medical assistance, but they seemed fine,” Rev. Hendley said.

Adding to the stress was an incident last year in which Ms. Schlemmer reportedly backed over the two children she is now accused of drowning and attempting to drown. The pastor said the incident occurred about 10 months ago outside the children’s grandparents’ home north of McCandless.

One of the boys “could not walk for a while,” the pastor said.

“We all had sympathy for Michelle,” Rev. Hendley said. “She thought they had run inside, and in fact they were still behind the van. What really happened there, God knows, but that’s the way we were dealing with that at that time.”

Church members visited the Schlemmer home in the days that followed “because of the additional burden to Michelle of having injured sons, as well as the emotional trauma she was going through,” Rev. Hendley said.

Northern Regional Police investigated the incident and did not file charges. Chief Robert Amann did not respond to multiple messages left Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office was “not brought in at the time” but learned about the incident after the boys were found unconscious Tuesday, spokesman Mike Manko said. He said Northern Regional’s police reports from the incident “have been transmitted to us and that information will now become part of the current investigation.”

That incident followed another four years earlier, in which Ross police charged Ms. Schlemmer with leaving a child unattended in a Honda Odyssey for 20 minutes with the car windows part-way down. Ms. Schlemmer was found guilty of the summary offense at a trial before District Judge Richard Opiela.

County officials said state law prohibits them from talking about whether a specific family has had any interactions with Allegheny County Children, Youth and Families.

The agency works off of tips, often sent in by doctors, police or others who are required to report suspected abuse or neglect. Hypothetically, that could include incidents in which children were struck by a car, said Marc Cherna, director of the county Department of Human Services.

“If we go out to a hospital to check on a child who has been injured and the doctors feel that this was an accidental situation, if the police who investigate think it’s an accidental situation, if there is a rationale, a story that makes sense … then there’s no ground for us to proceed,” Mr. Cherna said.

The idea that Ms. Schlemmer would have struck her children by accident rather than on purpose aligned more with people’s impressions of her prior to Tuesday.

Ms. Schlemmer, who was born in Morgantown, W.Va., graduated from North Allegheny High School in 1992. She went to Grove City College, where she studied elementary education until she graduated in 1996.

She worked briefly for the Eden Christian Academy in Sewickley and then went on to the Fox Chapel Area School District, where district officials said she worked from 1999 through 2004. State records indicate that she was certified at various times as a reading specialist and that there were not any disciplinary reports noted in her file.

Ms. Schlemmer married her husband, Mark, an actuary at Highmark, in 2005 and the pair moved into their two-story colonial home on Saratoga Drive a short while later.

The pair were regulars at the North Park Church, where Ms. Schlemmer had been attending Bible studies since at least her 20s, and some church members have visited the family since Tuesday’s incident, the pastor said.

He said Daniel Schlemmer, who has Tourette syndrome, remained in critical condition Wednesday — in a coma and suffering from oxygen deprivation.

“There’s been no improvement,” the pastor said Wednesday.

He said Daniel normally would have been at school during the time at which police said his mother attempted to drown the two boys.

It’s hard to tell, the pastor said, how the boys’ older brother is faring. Their father is “holding up reasonably well, but like a lot of people he’s in the early stages of dealing with this and the full weight of it, I’m sure, hasn’t crashed in upon him quite yet,” Rev. Hendley said.

He said Mr. Schlemmer is trying to support his sons and “he’d like to be able to also support his wife. I think he’d just like to be there to hug her and express his love for her. He’s obviously distressed over what’s occurred, but he’s not hostile or angry at all.”



'They seemed to be doing well': Pastor of mother who 'sat on and drowned her two youngest sons' because of 'crazy voices' says nothing was amiss - even though she backed over the boys with her van last year

  • Laurel Schlemmer, 40, said she wanted to drown her youngest children, ages three and six, so she could be a better mother to her 7-year-old son

  • Luke Schlemmer, 3, died, while his brother, Daniel, is listed in critical condition

  • The surviving 6-year-old has no brain activity due to oxygen deprivation and is on life support

  • Mother is on suicide watch in jail and awaiting psychiatric evaluation

  • Mrs Schlemmer told 911 operator she let her sons play in the bathtub while she went to the restroom and later found them unconscious

  • Pastor Dan Hendley said Schlemmer backed over her children with her van last year, but everyone thought it was an accident

  • Daniel Schlemmer, who has Tourette syndrome, suffered internal injuries and his younger brother was unable to walk for a while

  • Mother of three said at the time she thought her sons were inside the house and didn't realize they were behind the vehicle

  • In 2009, Schlemmer was cited for leaving one of her kids in a scorching hot car

By Snejana Farberov

April 3, 2014

The pastor of a Pennsylvania mother accused of drowning her youngest son and critically injuring his brother backed into the boys with her van 10 months ago, but everyone thought at the time that it was just an accident.

Laurel Schlemmer, 40, of McCandless, is being held without bond after she was arraigned early Wednesday on charges including criminal homicide, aggravated assault and child endangerment.

Schlemmer told Allegheny County detectives she heard 'crazy voices' telling her to push her sons underwater before she sat on the boys in the bathtub, drowning 3-year-old Luke and leaving 6-year-old Daniel in critical condition.

Allegheny County district attorney's spokesman Mike Manko announced Thursday afternoon that Daniel has no brain activity and is on life support.

The injured boy's status first emerged during a bond hearing Thursday for Schlemmer.

The woman didn't speak during the short video conference. Her attorney, Michael Machen, declined to comment after the hearing.

Schlemmer is in jail and on suicide watch. Her attorney got permission to have her evaluated by a psychiatrist.

The deadly incident comes less than a year after Schlemmer was questioned for nearly running over the two boys. She was never charged.

North Park Church Pastor Dan Hendley said that the van incident happened in the driveway of the boys' grandparents in a town near McCandless, where Schlemmer had been living with her sons.

‘There was no concern that there was anything but a terrible accident that occurred in that situation,’ Hendley said.

Hendley said the family seemed to have bounced back well from the van accident, which he said caused internal injuries to Daniel and left Luke unable to walk for a time.

‘They seemed to be doing well from the distance from which I observed them,’ he said.

The pastor said there were concerns about Schlemmer's mental state as a result of that trauma, not because her friends or family had any suspicions about the van incident.

‘What was shared with me is she was in the van and the boys were behind her and she didn't see them,’ he said. ‘She thought the boys had run inside and, instead, they were in back of the van.’

Schlemmer also received a citation for leaving a toddler unattended in a parked car September 5, 2009, in nearby Ross Township.

Court records don't indicate which child was in the car, but police said the car's interior was 112 degrees when officers arrived. The child wasn't injured and Schlemmer paid a small fine, according to court papers.

Tragedy struck Tuesday morning after Mrs Schlemmer's 7-year-old son left for school.

She put the older boy on the bus at around 8.40am, then told the younger boys to take off their pajamas and get into the bathtub.

'Schlemmer said after the boys got into the tub she got into the tub "fully clothed" and "crazy voices" were telling her to push the boys down into the water,' the complaint said.

'Schlemmer explained that at one point she [was] sitting on top of boys while they were under the water in the tub.'

The detectives said Schlemmer went on to say that she 'thought she could be a better mother' to the oldest boy 'if the other two boys weren't around and they would be better off in heaven.'

Schlemmer pulled both unconscious boys out of the tub and laid them on the bathroom floor while she called 911. She told police she never attempted CPR because she did not know how to do it.

Paramedics who responded to the colonial home in the 900 block of Saratoga Drive rushed Luke and Daniel Schlemmer to UPMC Passavant Hospital, where the younger boy was pronounced dead at around 10.50am.

His brother was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC, where police said he remained in critical condition.

On a 911 call placed just minutes after Schlemmer had allegedly drowned her children, the mother sounded halting but calm and extremely polite, reported the Pittsburgh Post--Gazette.

'Um, my two sons,’ Schlemmer said, ‘I think that they’ve, they’ve drowned in our bathtub.’

During the five-minute conversation with the dispatcher, Schlemmer explained that she let her sons to play in the bathtub while she went to the restroom, and by the time she returned to check on them, both children were unconscious.

Later, the operator asked if the boys had anything in their mouths.

'Just water,' the mother replied.

Word that the two little boys were found unresponsive stunned neighbors in the quiet, upscale bedroom community a few miles north of Pittsburgh.

They described the family as religious and said Schlemmer was a stay-at-home mom whose husband, 43-year-old Mark Schlemmer, was working at the time.

According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the couple got married in 2005. Mr Schlemmer is employed as an actuary, while his wife worked as a teacher at Kerr Elementary School and Dorseyville Middle School in the Fox Chapel School District from 1999 until 2004.

The Schlemmers have been long-time members of the North Park Church congregation, where the wife had been attending Bible studies since her 20s.

‘They were a wonderful couple, strong Christians,’ Rev. Bob Shull, a former associate pastor at the church who officiated the Schlemmers’ wedding ceremony in 2005, told Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Two bouquets of flowers were tucked Wednesday into a bush at the front of the family's home on a winding street of tidy split-level houses and manicured yards. Mourners also left a small stuffed leopard and a burning votive candle.

Schlemmer faces a preliminary hearing April 11. Other charges against her include reckless endangerment, aggravated assault and tampering with physical evidence, for allegedly hiding her wet clothes in a trash bag and then hiding that bag under three other bags.

Pastor Hendley and other friends at the evangelical Presbyterian congregation were working to help Mark Schlemmer, who is currently staying with a friend. The pastor said the husband was distraught but what happened, but not hostile toward his wife.

‘I'd question whether they're ever going to go back to that house given what's occurred,’ Hendley said.



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