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Second son dies after being on life support following apparent drowning

Yesterday evening detectives from the Allegheny County Police homicide unit arrested Laurel Michelle Schlemmer and charged her with homicide in connection with the death of her 3-year-old son. She also was charged with aggravated assault, attempted homicide, recklessly endangering another person, tampering with evidence and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. She is lodged in the Allegheny County Jail to await arraignment on those charges.

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Saturday, April 5, 2014, 5:12 p.m.
 

A 6-year-old McCandless boy whose mother has been charged with attempting to drown him and with drowning his younger brother died Saturday, the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office said.

Daniel Schlemmer had been on life support in UPMC Children's Hospital in Lawrenceville since Tuesday. That's when his mother, Laurel Michelle Schlemmer, 40, called police to say she had nearly drowned him and his brother, Luke, 3. Luke died on Tuesday.

The McCandless woman is in the Allegheny County Jail on charges of homicide, attempted homicide, aggravated assault and other counts.

“The Office of the Medical Examiner was notified that the formal death criteria has been met on Daniel Schlemmer at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh,” the medical examiner said in a statement. “A forensic autopsy examination will be scheduled and conducted to determine the cause and manner of death on this case.”

Mark Schlemmer, the boys' father, could not be reached for comment. Michael Machen, a defense attorney for the mother, could not be reached.

North Park Church, where the Schlemmers are members, plans to host a panel discussion at 7 p.m. on Wednesday with psychologists and grief counselors to address issues such as how to talk about the incident with children.

“There's an old hymn that says, ‘Take It to the Lord in Prayer,' and that's what we're doing,” the Rev. Dan Hendley said on Saturday.

He said Sunday's sermon will look at what could cause a mother to hurt her children and what is necessary for church members to move on after “feelings of disruption and insecurity we tend to have when things like the Twin Towers get knocked down and the affections of a mother get twisted.”

Parents in the congregation have been confounded about what to tell their children, he said.

At the same time, church members have not done a lot of second-guessing about missed signals that something was amiss in the Schlemmer home, Hendley said.

“I, for one, don't look back and say, ‘I was blind and dumb,' ” Hendley said.

Michelle Schlemmer struck and injured her two youngest children with her car last year. In 2009, Ross police said she left a toddler in a hot car with the windows partly down at Ross Park Mall for about 20 minutes.

Michelle Schlemmer appeared by video conference in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court on Thursday, appearing dazed and not speaking. She wore a black vest in place of regular jail garb, which authorities said is done as a precaution against suicide attempts.

Judge Jeffrey Manning ordered Schlemmer to undergo a county behavioral evaluation and denied her bail. He granted a request by Machen to allow a defense-hired psychiatrist to evaluate her.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini said then that Daniel was on life support with no brain activity.

While the heart can keep working with the help of machines, brain death is irreversible and means there is no longer brain function, according to medical guidelines.

Mike Manko, spokesman for the district attorney, declined to comment on Saturday.

County police have accused Schlemmer of drowning her sons in a bathtub in their home on Saratoga Drive on Tuesday while her oldest son was at school and her husband was not home.

Schlemmer told investigators that “crazy voices” told her that she would be a better mother to her oldest child if the other two “weren't around,” according to court records.

Schlemmer, a 1992 graduate of North Allegheny High School and former teacher, worked in Dorseyville Middle School and Kerr Elementary School in the Fox Chapel Area School District from 1999 to 2004, a district spokeswoman said.

Andrew Conte is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7835 or andrewconte@tribweb.com.

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