Mother in drowning case found mentally incompetent

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 7, 2014 at 12:24 pm •  Published: April 7, 2014
Advertisement
;

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A western Pennsylvania woman accused of drowning two of her sons in a bathtub was ordered Monday to a state mental hospital after a jail psychiatrist told a judge the defendant is mentally incompetent.

Dr. Christine Martone testified that Laurel Michelle Schlemmer is psychotic and suicidal and has a major depressive disorder. Schlemmer should be treated at Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township, about 45 miles east of Pittsburgh, before her condition is reviewed to determine if she can stand trial in the future, Martone said.

Judge Jeffrey Manning also issued a gag order in the case at the request of Schlemmer's attorney, Michael Machen. That prevents anyone associated with the case from commenting on the competency finding, which can be reviewed in 90 days.

County detectives said Schlemmer, 40, of McCandless, told them she was fully clothed when she sat on the boys, Daniel, 6, and Luke, 3, to hold them underwater Tuesday morning after their 7-year-old brother left for school.

Among other things, Schlemmer told police she heard "crazy voices" telling her to submerge the boys and she believed she could be a better mother to her oldest son and that the younger boys would be "better off in heaven," according to a police complaint.

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.