Berks County mother will stand trial in hanging deaths of her two children

Lisa Snyder will stand trial on charges of killing her two children by hanging, a district judge ruled Wednesday after hearing nearly four hours of testimony from relatives, friends and first responders.

The 37-year-old Berks County woman is charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the September killings of her daughter, 4-year-old Brinley, and son, 8-year-old Conner. She was arrested in December after a two-month investigation.

Snyder’s attorney, Dennis Charles, argued that the largely circumstantial evidence police had gathered did not prove Snyder killed her children.

“All you have is speculation and guesswork,” he said. “You don’t have any evidence that Lisa Snyder hanged these children.”

Assistant District Attorney Margaret McCallum said Snyder was the only adult in the Albany Township house when the children were found hanging from a dog lead in the basement.

An occupational therapist who worked with Conner told police that the boy had physical problems that would have made it impossible for him to manipulate the clasp on the dog lead.

“Conner was incapable of doing this to himself. He was incapable of doing this to his sister,” McCallum said.

According to testimony, Snyder knew she would be arrested for the crime but planned to commit suicide if she was released on bail.

Witness Jessica Senft of Slatington said she spoke to Snyder a week after Brinley and Conner died. Snyder said she expected to get out on bail if charged because she had never been in trouble before, and would kill herself after being released, Senft said.

The hearing at the county courthouse in Reading began shortly after 9 a.m. The first witness was a member of the Kempton Fire Department, which responded on Sept. 23 after Snyder reported finding the children.

The firefighter was followed on the stand by two state troopers and two members of Snyder’s family, the second of whom cried briefly as she was led into the courtroom.

Brinley and Conner died Sept. 26 at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest after being taken off life support. In addition to first-degree murder, Snyder was charged with third-degree murder, tampering with evidence, endangering the welfare of children, animal cruelty and sexual intercourse with a dog.

The dog-related charges stem from sexually explicit photos of Snyder with the family dog that were uncovered during the investigation and are not related to the homicide charges.

The hearing before district judge Kim Bagenstose was required for prosecutors to show they have enough evidence to merit the charges. Court papers indicated Snyder, who pleaded not guilty, would waive the hearing, sending the case to county court, but the proceeding went ahead as scheduled. It is unclear what prompted the change.

Charles, McCallum and family members declined to comment after the hearing.

The hearing was moved to Reading from a Hamburg district court office because of security concerns, Berks County District Attorney John Adams said.

Authorities say Snyder searched the internet for information on “hanging yourself” and perused true crime television shows about getting away with murder. In arresting Snyder, investigators rejected her claim that Conner was suicidal and killed himself and his sister.

On the evening of the hangings, Snyder had told rescue workers that Conner was bullied and had been threatening suicide, according to 911 recordings.

Kimberlynn Watson, Snyder’s cousin, testified that she spent a lot of time with the children and that Conner had never mentioned being bullied in school and was always very happy.

McCallum said police viewed multiple videos of Conner on his school bus, where the bullying was said to have occurred, and saw him laughing and engaging in “horseplay ” with his supposed tormentors.

Authorities say while investigating the deaths of the children, they discovered Facebook messages that showed Snyder had sex with the family dog. Adams has said he doesn’t believe the animal cruelty is tied to the killings.

The family had a history with child protective services. In 2014, Conner and Snyder’s older son were removed from their mother’s care by a judge, though authorities have not detailed why. The boys were returned to her within months, and the child protection case was later closed, ending Berks County caseworkers’ supervision of the household.

Snyder remains in jail without bail.

Published at Wed, 12 Feb 2020 21:58:19 +0000

Source: Berks County mother will stand trial in hanging deaths of her two children.

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