McCandless mother charged with homicide in drowning of 3-year-old
A McCandless woman told investigators she drowned her 3-year-old son in the bathtub and attempted to drown his 6-year-old brother on Tuesday because “crazy voices” told her she could be a better mother to a third child if the other two “weren't around,” court documents show.
Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, who told investigators she thought the two younger boys would be better off in heaven, was charged with homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, endangering the welfare of children and tampering with evidence, the criminal complaint states.
She awaited arraignment in Night Court as doctors worked to save the life of the 6-year-old boy.
Donald Ludwig, 71, of Marshall, grandfather to the boys, identified the 3-year-old as Luke Schlemmer.
A spokesman for the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said no information about the boy would be released until Wednesday.
Luke's brother, Daniel, was unconscious when he arrived at Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville, Ludwig said before his daughter was arrested.
Allegheny County police said Daniel is in critical condition.
County homicide detectives have not discussed the charges, saying only that the death was “not accidental.”
A criminal complaint states that Schlemmer confessed the chilling details of her son's death in an interview with detectives.
According to the complaint:
After putting her oldest son, age 7, onto the school bus at 8:40 a.m., she returned to the family's house on Saratoga Drive, filled the tub and told the younger boys to get out of their pajamas and into the tub.
She said she was clothed when she got into the tub as “crazy voices” told her to push the boys into the water.
Schlemmer explained that she sat on top of the boys while they were submerged.
She told detectives she thought she could be a better mother to the 7-year-old if the other two boys weren't around and that the younger ones would be “better off in heaven.”
After getting out of the tub, she took off her wet clothes and put them and two towels in a trash bag in the garbage.
She lifted the boys out of the tub, placed them onto the bathroom floor and went to the second-floor den to call 911.
Schlemmer said she did not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation because “she did not know how to do it,” the complaint states.
County police Lt. Andrew Schurman said paramedics responded to a 911 report at 9:39 a.m. of a possible drowning at a home.
Neighbors and a family member said Schlemmer and her husband, Mark Schlemmer, 43, lived in the home with their three children.
Police stayed at the home until after 3 p.m. They left carrying several large brown paper bags containing evidence.
Neighbors said Mark Schlemmer would typically leave for work in the morning, walking to a nearby park-and-ride lot, and his wife would stay home with the children.
Laurel Schlemmer would stand with her oldest son at the bus stop and often could be seen playing with her younger sons in the yard, said Bob Majersky, 62, who lives on the same street.
“I just saw them yesterday playing ball in the yard,” Majersky said.
Laurel Schlemmer, who neighbors called Michelle, previously pleaded guilty to leaving a child unattended in a vehicle, according to court records.
A toddler was left in a hot car at the Ross Park Mall for about 20 minutes on Sept. 5, 2009, according to police.
The windows were partly down and, after officers got the vehicle open to cool it down, a heat gun showed the temperature inside to be 112 degrees, Ross police Detective Brian Kohlhepp said. The toddler, who was not identified, was not injured, he said.
Mark and Laurel Schlemmer were married in 2005 and bought the house on Saratoga Drive a year later, records show.
Aaron Aupperlee and Michael Hasch are staff writers for Trib Total Media.
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