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Psychiatrists differ on mental state of McCandless mom on trial for drowning sons

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - 3/10/2017

March 10--Psychiatric experts offered differing views Friday morning on Laurel Michelle Schlemmer's ability to plan the 2014 murder of her sons Luke, 3, and Daniel, 6.

Forensic psychiatrists Robert Wettstein and Bruce Wright agreed during court testimony that Schlemmer has a history of depression and anxiety; that she irrationally believed Luke and Daniel were mentally disabled; and that she suffered from bouts of dissociation.

Wettstein, called to testify by the defense on day three of Schlemmer's murder trial, said her "ability to formulate intent was substantially diminished" on the day she put the boys in the bathtub at the family's home in McCandless and drowned them.

"Her ability to premeditate was significantly impaired because of her irrational anxiety bordering on delusion," he said. "She knew she was doing something wrong, but she felt it was best for them."

Wright, called as a rebuttal witness by prosecutors, said Schlemmer performed several deliberate acts in the killings, and that "despite her mental illness ... she had the capacity to formulate the intent to kill."

"In my opinion, she knew what she was doing and she knew what she was doing was wrong," Wright said.

Schlemmer said "crazy voices" told her to kill Luke and Daniel on April 1, 2014.

She is on trial for murder, child endangerment and tampering with evidence.

Testimony is expected to conclude Friday afternoon in the non-jury trial before Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.

The judge is expected to decide the case next week.


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