Albany Township hangings

Lisa R. Snyder

A mother charged with fatally hanging her son and daughter in her Albany Township basement will mount an insanity defense, her attorneys said in Berks County Court papers.

Attorneys for Lisa R. Snyder, 37, filed court papers Thursday, saying she has had a number of serious mental health issues for most of her life, including at the time of the killings.

Snyder is facing the death penalty for two counts of first-degree murder and related charges in the deaths of her children, Conner, 8, and Brinley, 4, whom she’s accused of killing in their home along the 2400 block of Route 143 on Sept 23, 2019.

Snyder has denied killing her children.

Snyder's attorneys, Dennis Charles of Allentown and James Burke of Bethlehem, also asked Judge Paul M. Yatron for a change of venue for the trial. 

The attorneys also requested the homicide charges be separated from animal abuse charges Snyder is facing because sexually explicit pictures of Snyder and her dog could prejudice the jury.

Snyder has remained in Berks County Prison without bail since her Dec. 2 arrest. Thursday's hearing was conducted virtually.

Prosecutors said they are seeking the death penalty because the alleged crimes meet the threshold of aggravating factors required in Pennsylvania for a capital case.

The primary aggravating factors are that there were two victims and both were children, District Attorney John T. Adams has said.

Assistant District Attorney Meg McCallum, who is prosecuting the case, has declined comment because it is an active prosecution.

Yatron ruled earlier that Snyder is indigent and will receive county funds for expert witnesses in her defense.

Police said Conner and Brinley were found hanging and unresponsive in the basement. They were revived on their way to the hospital, but both were pronounced brain dead, taken off life support three days later and died.

According to police, court records and testimony at Snyder's preliminary hearing:

Police and medics were called to the home by Snyder and they found the children hanging from opposite ends of a plastic-coated dog lead that had been wrapped around the main support beam of the basement ceiling.

Each end of the lead was wrapped around the victims' necks. Two chairs were tipped over on the floor on either side of the bodies, which were about 3 feet apart.

When Snyder spoke with first responders she wasn't crying, and told them that Conner was being bullied at school, appeared stressed when he got off the school bus that day and asked her for the dog lead before going into the basement with his sister.

Other witnesses contradicted her claims that Conner was depressed, and prosecutors denied the bullying claims.

Conner's occupational therapist said the boy wasn't physically capable of fastening the dog lead around his own neck, let alone his sister's.

Internet searches from a number connected to a missing phone of Snyder's were found for how to hang oneself with a "short drop, single suspension."

Her online accounts also showed photos of her forcing a dog to perform sex acts on her. She was charged with sexual intercourse with an animal and cruelty to animals, as well as endangering the welfare of children and tampering with evidence.

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