WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — A woman was convicted of attempted homicide of her two young children after authorities said she tried to pipe vehicle exhaust into their car in a Pennsylvania bus station parking lot.
Jurors in Luzerne County deliberated for about three hours Friday before convicting Melissa Ann Scholl, 34, of two counts of attempted homicide in a retrial. The panel in her first trial deliberated for seven hours in June without reaching a verdict.
Prosecutors said she drove the 7-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl to a Wilkes-Barre 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 accused 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 and suggested that police “jumped to a very fast, wrong conclusion.”
“Maybe she didn’t pick the best way (to cry for help),” Kansky told jurors. “But so what? Who among us is perfect?”
He pointed out that the bus driver who found the family testified that the car wasn’t running when he arrived, and her son said he heard his mother say she wanted to kill herself but 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.
Sanguedolce said after the verdict that he was relieved but called the case “a terrible situation for everybody.”
“We feel for the children, but this was something that was necessary, and we’re glad that justice is served,” Sanguedolce said.
Kansky had no comment following the verdict. Sentencing is scheduled Nov. 20.
Juror Mark Wallace said the panel talked about whether Scholl was making a cry for help but decided the bulk of the evidence pointed to a plan to commit suicide.
“If (the bus driver) wouldn’t have found her in the parking lot that night, we don’t know what would have happened,” Wallace said. “Everybody in the room felt that she got into a bad place and she made a really terrible decision, and she’s going to have to live with that, unfortunately.”