Pa. Senate Candidate Testifies That Wife 'Made Up' Her Stories of His Abuse and He 'Never' Choked Her

Sean Parnell took the stand on Monday during a hearing in an custody case with his estranged wife Laurie Snell, who last week testified that he had abused her and their kids

Sean Parnell
Sean Parnell at a Butler County courthouse. Photo: Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP

Leading Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell testified in a Pennsylvania court on Monday, denying the accounts of physical and emotional abuse his estranged wife, Laurie Snell, gave in her own testimony last week in the ongoing case over custody of the couple's three young children.

"Did you ever choke your wife?" Parnell's attorney asked during a hearing on Monday in Butler County, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"Never," Parnell, 40, said. "It just wasn't a good relationship."

Asked if he ever got "physical" with Snell, as she claimed, Parnell also said "never."

On Nov. 1, Snell testified under oath that in separate incidents Parnell choked her, slapped one of their children hard enough to leave a mark beneath the child's T-shirt and punched a door causing it to swing and hit and bruise a child's face.

"He tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him" to get free, Snell told the judge last week, according to local media reports. "He was strangling me."

Monday's hearing included the cross-examination of Snell and direct questioning of Parnell in his first opportunity to counter his wife's allegations.

Parnell had unsuccessfully tried to keep the case private; now the details have marred what had been seen as a major candidacy for one of Pennsylvania's Senate seats.

A decorated Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Parnell announced his candidacy in May. He's seeking the seat of fellow Republican Pat Toomey, who won't run for re-election next year.

In September, Parnell landed the sought-after endorsement of former President Donald Trump, whose approval is often key in Republican primaries.

Sean Parnell
Keith Srakocic/AP/Shutterstock

Parnell said on Monday that it's been "a very tough week for my family" since Snell gave her testimony, in which she claimed his disturbing behavior began only months after they began dating in 2008 and lasted until they separated 10 years later.

"When he started hitting the kids in 2018, that was the final straw," Snell said in court. Their children are ages 8, 11 and 12.

Parnell's attorney Kristen Batson Eberle pointed out in court on Monday that Snell's previous filings in the custody case made no mention of abuse, "no allegations whatsoever" of violence and "not one allegation of a safety concern for the children," the Inquirer reports.

Eberle also said that two allegations of violence against the children were included in Snell's request for a protective order in 2018, which was denied by a judge.

Parnell's attorney questioned Snell about messages she sent in 2019 indicating that she would support Parnell's run for Congress in 2020 (which was unsuccessful) and knock on doors for him if he agreed to continue making mortgage payments for the home where she and their children still live.

Sean Parnell
Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty

"This was a touchy time, but yes, that's what I said," Snell reportedly testified Monday.

Snell also testified that Parnell loves his children and that "he's a great father in public."

Regarding the alleged incident that left a welt on one of their children, Parnell said a photo of a child's bruised back submitted as evidence was not of his son.

He also denied the allegation that he slammed a door so hard it struck his child's face, adding that the boy was startled and hurt himself by accident on the door before Parnell hugged the child and apologized.

Parnell testified that Snell's version of the incident was "made up."

"Laurie wasn't even there," he said.

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