- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 21, 2016

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A woman accused of drowning her two young sons in a bathtub was ruled Tuesday to be mentally unfit to stand trial on murder charges in their 2014 deaths.

Allegheny County Judge Jeffrey Manning made that ruling after a psychiatrist testified that Laurel Schlemmer, 42, continues to have paranoid delusions, depression and psychotic symptoms. Schlemmer also told the judge she’s been refusing to take her psychiatric medications.

Assistant District Attorney Lisa Pellegrini said Schlemmer can’t be forced to take the medications in jail, so Manning plans to order Schlemmer returned to Torrance State Hospital for up to 60 days’ treatment. Before then, however, he will read a final report on Schlemmer by Dr. Christine Martone, the psychiatrist who testified Tuesday.

Manning determined Schlemmer was mentally unfit for trial in May 2015 but found her competent two months later - again on Martone’s recommendation - after Schlemmer received treatment at Torrance.

Schlemmer’s attorney, Michael Machen, can’t comment because of a court-imposed gag order but has previously told the judge he’s pursuing a mental health defense in the April 2014 killings.

According to police, the 42-year-old McCandless woman told officers she heard “crazy voices” before she held her 6-year-old son, Daniel, and his 3-year-old brother, Luke, underwater on April 1, 2014. Luke died that day, and Daniel died a few days later.

Schlemmer’s 7-year-old son was at school at the time. Schlemmer told investigators she felt she could be a better mother to him “if the other two boys weren’t around and they would be better off in heaven,” according to police.

If Machen pursues a mental health defense at trial, Schlemmer could be found not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty but mentally ill, or the charges could be reduced from first-degree murder to third-degree murder because of her diminished mental capacity. First-degree, or premeditated, murder carries a mandatory life sentence while third-degree carries a maximum of 40 years.

Pellegrini and Machen have previously told the judge they were attempting to settle the case with a plea agreement, but there’s been no mention of progress on that in months.

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