McCANDLESS (KDKA) – A McCandless woman is facing charges after one of her children died and another was hospitalized with critical injuries when they were found unresponsive in their home Tuesday morning.
According to emergency dispatchers, the two children – brothers – were found on the bathroom floor at the home in the 9500-block Saratoga Drive around 9 a.m.
KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti Reports:
Allegheny County Police now say they have determined through their investigation that the incident was not accidental.
The children’s mother, identified as 40-year-old Laurel Schlemmer, is facing a long list of charges including criminal homicide, criminal attempt homicide, aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of children.
According to the criminal complaint, Schlemmer said she was “hearing voices.”
“Roughly, 9:40 this morning, emergency responders – to include paramedics and police – were dispatched to Saratoga Street in response to two children who were unresponsive,” said Lt. Andrew Schurman, of Allegheny County Police.
Allegheny County Police say Schlemmer admitted that she allegedly intentionally drowned and tried to drown her two youngest boys, aged 3 and 6, “because she could be a better mother [to her 7-year-old son] if the other two boys weren’t around, and they [the younger boys] would be better off in heaven.”
Police said after Schlemmer took the 7-year-old to the bus stop Tuesday morning, she returned home and instructed the other two to take off their pajamas and get into a bathtub full of water.
Then, according to the criminal complaint, she got into the tub “fully clothed” and “crazy voices” told her to push the boys down. At one point, she allegedly sat on top of the boys when they were in the water.
The children were found on the bathroom floor when police and paramedics arrived at the home after Schlemmer called 911.
The children were rushed to UPMC Passavant Hospital.
According to the Medical Examiner’s Office, the 3-year-old passed away at the hospital. The 6-year-old was last listed in critical condition.
KDKA’s David Highfield Reports:
Neighbors identify three people seen walking out of the home this morning as the mother of the children and the grandparents.
“I just heard some sirens when I was getting out of bed this morning. I looked out the window and just really had no idea. Just trying to figure things out. Great family, fantastic, all about their own family. They’re just great. You see them outside playing, playing baseball with the other kids,” neighbor Heather Lucci said. “They’re very religious people.”
Later, neighbors on Saratoga Drive were stunned by news of Schlemmer’s arrest.
“They’re nice, religious people,” said Bob Majersky, who lives on the same street. “They’re wonderful people.”
He said on a normal day: “He came home and pulled the weeds, and she’s out there playing baseball with the kids.”
Another neighbor, Jennie Leonard, says the Schlemmers and she have prayed together, even watched each other’s kids.
“It’s completely out of left field to even think about something like that,” said John Schneider, another neighbor. “Very nice with the kids. Very nice with the neighbors. It’s just shocking.”
Police went in and out of the house most of the morning, often bringing out boxes of evidence.
“We are interviewing the family who were home, and we’re trying to reach the family of the children who were not home at the time,” said Lt. Schurman.
Ross Township Police cited Schlemmer with leaving a child in a car unattended in 2009 when they found one of her sons in a car at Ross Park Mall. The car windows were partially down, but the temperature in the car was 112 degrees.
She was found guilty and paid a fine.
KDKA’s Brenda Waters Reports: