PITTSBURGH (AP) – A woman accused of drowning her two young sons in a bathtub more than a year ago waived her right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday, a day after a judge found her mentally competent to stand trial.
Laurel Schlemmer, 41, of McCandless Township, waived the hearing on criminal homicide, child endangerment and other charges in the April 2014 deaths of 3-year-old Luke and 6-year-old Daniel, online court records show. The hearing was to determine whether there was sufficient evidence for Schlemmer to stand trial.
Schlemmer’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call.
County homicide detectives have said Schlemmer told them “crazy voices” urged her to kill the boys after their 7-year-old brother left for school that day. Schlemmer told detectives she thought she could be a better mother to her oldest son “if the other two boys weren’t around, and they would be better off in heaven,” a police complaint said.
The preliminary hearing had been rescheduled seven times since April 2014 after a county jail psychiatrist, Dr. Christine Martone, testified that Schlemmer was psychotic, depressed, suicidal and not mentally able to assist her defense attorney.
But Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning on Monday ruled Schlemmer was competent after a new report by Martone seconded more recent findings by a doctor at the mental facility where Schlemmer has been held.
Schlemmer appeared at Monday’s hearing by video wearing a red county jail inmate uniform.
In Pennsylvania, people are considered mentally competent to stand trial if they can distinguish between right and wrong and if they can assist their attorneys in their defense – even if their crime may have been fueled by delusions. So Schlemmer could eventually stand trial on criminal homicide and other charges even if she continues to maintain her behavior was fueled by the “crazy voices,” provided prosecutors can prove she still realized the consequences.
According to court records, Schlemmer waived her right to a hearing on a criminal homicide charge in the death of her son, Luke, who died that day, but only on an attempted homicide charge for Daniel, who died several days later.
County prosecutors have said they planned to upgrade the charge involving Daniel to criminal homicide after Schlemmer was found competent to stand trial. But district attorney’s spokesman Mike Manko, citing a gag order issued by Manning months ago, said Tuesday that he couldn’t comment on any aspect of the case.
Schlemmer is also charged with endangering the welfare of children, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and tampering with physical evidence.
She must appear for her formal Common Pleas arraignment on those charges on Aug. 5, according to court records.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)