Police in Pennsylvania allege the 36-year-old mother accused of murdering her two children purchased a vinyl dog lead the day before she staged their hanging deaths with it to look like a murder-suicide carried out by her son, who she claimed was bullied.
Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams told reporters during a Monday press conference that Lisa Rachelle Snyder’s Samsung phone remains missing, but is believed to be the device she used to order a dog lead. She picked the lead up hours before her children were found unconscious, hanging from the lead in her Albany Township home’s basement, Adams said.
Adams also said that one of Snyder’s friends came forward following the deaths in late September of Conner Snyder, 8, and Brinley Snyder, who was 4, and told investigators Snyder had confided she’d “had enough” of her children just weeks before allegedly hatching an elaborate plot to kill them both.
Adams alleged she then staged the crime to look like a murder-suicide carried out by Conner, who she’d claimed was a bullied third grader.
Adams said that investigators were suspicious of Snyder’s story early on. Adams emphasized detectives interviewed family, school officials and Conner’s classmates, and found no evidence the boy was ever bullied.
Video footage from his final bus ride home showed “no signs that Conner was in any distress whatsoever,” Adams explained. “In fact, from the video, he appeared to be a happy child.”
On Monday, Snyder was charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and endangering the welfare of children. Last week, Adams said the autopsy reports on the brother and sister was finalized — they both died from hanging, and their deaths were ruled homicides.
The death penalty may be sought in this case, Adams said, adding Snyder allegedly researched hanging methods before the murders.
“This is a horrific, tragic incident that has received a lot of attention in our community and we are very saddened by this incident that took place in Albany Township,” Adams said. “We believe we have gathered sufficient probable cause to charge her and sufficient evidence to have her found guilty.”
Snyder is being held without bail, and has yet to plead to any of the charges against her.
Her attorney, Dennis Charles, could not be reached for comment.
It is not clear how Snyder allegedly got her children in the position they were later found in.
Snyder allegedly told police over the course of two separate interviews Conner was bullied over his weight, and had been starving himself as a result, Adams said.
Snyder also allegedly told detectives Conner was picked on because of a speech delay, and she had described him as “a little slower to grasp things.”
In addition, Snyder allegedly told police the day her children were found hanged that Conner returned from school and asked if he could go “downstairs to build a fort.”
She allegedly said Conner borrowed the dog lead and two dining room chairs to make the fort; Snyder said she was putting laundry away and went outside for a cigarette, leaving her son alone.
She allegedly told police she found her daughter hanging, but was unable to remove the leash. Snyder also allegedly said she tried but was unable to lift her son to safety, saying he weighed about 150 pounds.
A witness who lives in the home told police Conner had never before mentioned being bullied, said Adams. Other relatives allegedly told investigators Conner had never expressed suicidal thoughts.
Snyder called police Sept. 23, telling them she returned home to find her son and his little sister hanging from a support beam in her home’s basement.
According to police, the mother said she’d returned to their home around 4:30 p.m., finding two dining room chairs tipped over on the floor near her children’s bodies.
The children were unconscious and in cardiac arrest when they were found, but medics revived them en route to the hospital. However, on Sept. 26, both children were removed from life support, dying within 14 minutes of each other.
Adams said that Snyder was the only person who ever said Conner was suicidal, and that she’d told her friend “she was depressed and didn’t want her kids anymore.”
Adams also said Snyder was charged with animal cruelty and sexual intercourse with a dog, when, during the course of the investigation, police learned Snyder allegedly had sent at least three sexually explicit images of herself engaged in sexual acts with a black and white dog to an unnamed person.