A Pennsylvania mom-of-three on trial for allegedly drowning her two youngest sons in 2014 tried to kill them a year earlier by tying them up and running them over with her minivan, a prosecutor alleged Wednesday in her opening statement.
By allegedly drowning sons Luke, 3, and Daniel, 6, on April 1, 2014, mom Laurel Michelle Schlemmer “succeeded in what she’d been trying to do all those years,” Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini said in court, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“She thought she’d be a better mother to Joshua” — her eldest child — “if her other two children would go to heaven,” Pelligrini said.
Schlemmer, 43, is charged with homicide, endangering the welfare of children, and tampering with evidence.
The morning of the alleged murder, she walked Joshua, her oldest, to his school bus stop that morning after her husband left for work, and then returned home to attend to the other two boys, according to KDKA. In a 911 call she subsequently reported they were “unconscious” in the tub of their McCandless home.
An arriving police officer, Todd Ray, said he found the boys naked and dry, but their damp hair appeared to have been combed. Luke died an hour later, and Daniel died several days later at a hospital, having never regained consciousness.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Schlemmer allegedly confessed in a video statement to police that was played for Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, who is hearing the case in a bench trial without a jury, according to WTAE.
“These crazy voices were prompting me to act irrationally,” Schlemmer said. “And I changed clothes and I got in there with them and held them underwater. And I felt like I was looking down on the whole thing. Just kind of out of body. Then I freaked out and got out and changed my clothes and got them out.”
Allegheny County Detective Steve Hitchings asked her in the video, “You had indicated that you thought the boys would be better off in heaven? Is that a correct statement from you?”
“Those were the crazy thoughts in my head,” Schlemmer answered.
Pelligrini sought to establish an alleged pattern in Schlemmer’s behavior, introducing evidence that she had allegedly hurt her youngest boys a year earlier, during an April 16, 2013, visit to her parents’ home in Marshall. After she pulled her van into the garage and Luke, then 2, and Daniel, then 5, both got out, Schlemmer allegedly roped the boys with twine and placed them behind the vehicle, the prosecutor said.
The mom then allegedly put the vehicle in reverse “and drove over them — not once, not twice, but three times,” Pelligrini said.
The boys’ injuries included a broken pelvis for Daniel, and an ankle fracture, jaw fracture, liver laceration and pancreatic injury for Luke. It was not immediately clear if the police or child welfare workers investigated the case at the time.
And in 2009, Schlemmer received a ticket for leaving Daniel in a mall parking lot inside her overheated car where the temperature reached 112 degrees, according to testimony in the trial from a Ross Township police officer.
• Pick up PEOPLE’s special edition True Crime Stories: Cases That Shocked America, on sale now, for the latest on Casey Anthony, JonBenét Ramsey and more.
Defense attorney Michael Machen deferred his opening statement in the trial.
Schlemmer has put forth a mental infirmity defense. The defense allows Judge Manning to consider four possible outcomes: guilty but mentally ill, not guilty by reason of insanity, or straightforward verdicts of guilty or not guilty.
Testimony continued on Thursday.