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Police: 'Voices' told mother to sit on sons in tub

Associated Press Updated: April 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm 0

MCCANDLESS, Pa. (AP) — A woman said she heard "crazy voices" telling her to push her sons underwater before she sat on the boys in the bathtub, drowning her 3-year-old and leaving his 6-year-old brother in critical condition, police said.

Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, told detectives she "thought she could be a better mother" to a third son, the oldest, "if the other two boys weren't around, and they would be better off in heaven," a police complaint said.

Schlemmer, a stay-at-home mom in this town about 10 miles north of Pittsburgh, was jailed without bond Wednesday on charges including criminal homicide and attempted homicide as prosecutors also began reviewing another episode involving her and her children.

Prosecutors would not discuss what they were looking into, but Schlemmer's pastor said she backed into the same two boys with her van 10 months ago in the driveway of the boys' grandparents in a nearby town and that he counseled the family afterward.

The van encounter was an accident, North Park Church Pastor Dan Hendley said in an interview.

"I never had any reason to believe otherwise," he said. It did not result in any charges.

In her interview with detectives, Schlemmer said she tried to drown her sons Luke and Daniel after her 7-year-old son left for school Tuesday. She put the older boy on his school bus at about 8:40 a.m., the complaint said, then told the younger boys to take off their pajamas and get into the bathtub.

Luke was pronounced dead Tuesday morning. Daniel was reported in critical condition at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh at UPMC.

"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."

Schlemmer pulled both boys out of the bathtub 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. Her husband, Mark, was working at the time, neighbors said.

Before breaking down in tears, a neighbor in this quiet, upscale bedroom community who did not want to give her name said the family did everything together and seemed very happy. Neighbors describe the family as religious.

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

Hendley, the pastor, 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 what happened.

"There was no concern that there was anything but a terrible accident that occurred in that situation," he said.

"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 received a citation for leaving a toddler unattended in a parked car in 2009 in nearby Ross Township, court records indicated. The car's interior was 112 degrees when officers arrived, police said. The child wasn't injured and Schlemmer paid a small fine, court records show. They didn't say which child was in the car.

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.

Hendley said the family hadn't hired an attorney yet. No one answered the phone at their home.

The pastor and other friends at the evangelical Presbyterian congregation were working to help Mark Schlemmer and his 7-year-old son.

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

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