Mistrial for mother accused of trying to kill kids, herself

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Sunday, June 18, 2017

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge has declared a mistrial in the case of a woman accused of having tried to kill herself and her two young children by piping vehicle exhaust into her car.

Jurors in Luzerne County deliberated for seven hours in the case against Melissa Ann Scholl, reporting three times that they were deadlocked, before the mistrial was declared Friday night. The jury foreman said they were deadlocked 9-3 in favor of conviction. Prosecutors haven't said whether they will retry the case.

Prosecutors haven't said whether they will retry the case, citing a gag order. The jury foreman said the panel was split 9-3 in favor of conviction.

Authorities said Scholl, 33, drove the 7-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl to a bus station parking lot in December 2015 and strung a hose from the exhaust pipe to a window. A passer-by pulled the hose from the exhaust and called police.

Prosecutors charged Scholl with attempted murder, accusing her of a "dramatic, self-centered, narcissistic" murder-suicide plan. First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce said she kissed and hugged her children for what she said would be the last time and also texted her mother, saying she planned to kill herself, and then stopped responding as her mother frantically tried to locate her.

Defense attorney Larry Kansky called her actions a cry for help, saying there was no evidence that she wanted to kill her children. He pointed out that the bus driver who found the family testified that the car wasn't running when he arrived, and her son testified that he heard his mother say she wanted to kill herself but she didn't want to harm them.

Kansky also noted that the car contained a packed suitcase, pillows and a blanket which were photographed by investigators but disappeared after the vehicle was seized, which he said suggested an attempt to hide possible exculpatory evidence.

After the jury was dismissed, Kansky sought nominal bail for Scholl, who has been jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility since her arrest in December 2015.

"She's been incarcerated a year-and-a-half already. She doesn't know where her children are," Kansky said. "She's a threat to no one."


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