McCandless mother charged in drowning case was investigated in earlier incident involving sons

A McCandless mother accused of drowning one son and trying to drown another turned to her church for support after she hit them with her car last year, her pastor said today.

The Rev. Dan Hendley said Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, told them it was an accident -- that she thought the children were inside when in reality they were behind her van.

"We had all the sympathy for Michelle," Rev. Hendley said. "What really happened there, God knows, but that's the way we were dealing with it at the time."

Today, Ms. Schlemmer is being held in the Allegheny County Jail without bail while she awaits an April 11 court hearing on charges of homicide, aggravated assault and other crimes.

Her 3-year-old son, Luke Schlemmer, is dead. Her 6-year-old son, Daniel, remains in critical condition, Rev. Hendley said. A 7-year-old son was not home at the time.

Allegheny County police wrote in a criminal complaint that Ms. Schlemmer said "crazy voices" told her to push her boys into a bathtub full of water. She then sat on them, Ms. Schlemmer told police, saying she thought she would be a better mother to a third son if "the other two boys weren't around and they would be better off in heaven."

Court records show Ross police cited Ms. Schlemmer in September 2009 with leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, and she was found guilty.

A police report from the time indicates that police estimated the child was alone inside a van with the windows partially down for about 20 minutes before police spotted the child and measured the temperature inside at 112 degrees. They noted that the child was "OK."

Northern Regional police investigated the incident in which Ms. Schlemmer's youngest two children were struck with a car. The chief there could not be reached.

The Allegheny County district attorney's office was "not brought in at the time," spokesman Mike Manko said. He said the DA's office learned of the incident during its homicide investigation and "that information will now become part of the current investigation."

Liz Navratil: or 412-263-1438.


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