A 36-year-old woman who claimed that her two children had killed themselves has been accused of murdering them two months after they died in Albany Township, Pennsylvania.
Lisa R. Snyder was arrested Monday and charged with first-degree murder, endangering the welfare of children, and tampering with evidence. She was also charged with one count of sexual intercourse with an animal and one count of cruelty to animals.
She is being held without bail at Berks County Prison in Pennsylvania.
On Sept. 23, Snyder called 911 to report that she found her 8-year-old son, Conner Snyder, and her 4-year-old daughter, Brinley Snyder, hanging in the basement of their home. They were taken to the hospital but pronounced dead three days later.
Snyder told police that Conner was bullied in school and had told her several times that he wanted to die, authorities said. She claimed that Conner had told her he was "scared to go by myself" and suggested to police that was the reason he had taken his sister to die along with him.
However, authorities said there was no evidence the boy was bullied or that he had thoughts of suicide. By all accounts, officials said, he appeared to be a happy child. He also had a physical disability that would have made it difficult for him to hang himself, authorities said.
Snyder also told a witness that she was "depressed and doesn't care anymore about her kids," Berks County District Attorney John Adams said in a press conference Monday.
Snyder has maintained that her children died by suicide, authorities said.
"I don't know if there's any explanation for her behavior at all," Adams said. "I don't think I can stand up here and explain the horrific loss of two innocent children's lives."
After Snyder called 911 on Sept. 23, first responders found Conner and Brinley hanging three feet apart from a single-wired cable dog lead with the ends of the wires wrapped around their necks, according to court documents. Two wooden bar-height dining room chairs were found knocked over on their sides.
The children were in full cardiac arrest and were resuscitated. Three days later, they were pulled off life support in the hospital and pronounced dead, Adams said.
Snyder had ordered the dog lead cable wire a day before the children were found unresponsive and had picked it up from a Walmart the morning of Sept. 23, authorities said.
During two interviews with police, Snyder said that Conner had been bullied in school because he was overweight, had a speech delay, and was "slower to grasp things," according to court documents.
"Kids make fun of him because he is fat," Snyder told police. She said that Conner had told her that he hated school, that he was "angry," and that he wanted to die.
"He doesn't say much because he knows that I will call the school," Snyder told police.
She said that she had recently had a "little sit-down" with Conner and told him to come to her whenever he felt like hurting himself. She claimed that Conner told her, "I woulda killed myself already but I am scared to go by myself." Snyder indicated to police that she believed Conner took his sister with him so they could go together.
Video footage from Conner’s school bus on Sept. 23 showed him running up to his home.
“The video showed no signs that Conner was in any distress whatsoever,” Adams said. “From the video, he appeared to be a happy child.”
Snyder told police that when her son came home from school that day, he asked his sister to go downstairs to build a fort with him. Snyder said Conner loved building forts and that "that's his thing."
Snyder's 17-year-old son, who also lives in the house, later told police that it was not normal for the two kids to play in the basement and that they usually built forts in the living room, authorities said.
Snyder told police that Conner took the dining room chairs down with him to the basement. She said that she then went outside the house to walk the dog and smoke a cigarette. She claimed that when she went down to the basement to ask the children what they wanted for dinner, she found them unresponsive.
She told police that she tried to lift her children but could not because her "anxiety spikes" caused her to sweat profusely, according to court documents. She then went upstairs, called 911, and never returned to the basement, authorities said.
"We all would think that a mother whose children were found hanging would make every effort possible to save them," Adams said. "That was not done."
Family members, school officials, and the children's classmates told authorities that Conner was not bullied at school and that he had never expressed thoughts of suicide.
An occupational therapist told authorities that Conner had dexterity problems, which would make it impossible for him to even tie his own laces and that it would have prevented him from using the dog lead to hang himself.
Three weeks before her children died, Snyder told witnesses that she was depressed and could not get out of bed. She also told them that she does not care about her kids anymore, authorities said.
A review of her Facebook Messenger showed that Snyder had sent several sexually explicit messages and photos showing her dog performing sexual acts on her, authorities said. The dog had been "sent away" but was later located by authorities.
In the days leading up to her children's deaths, Snyder's Google searches included "carbon monoxide in a car how long to die," "I almost got away with it best episodes," and "hanging yourself," according to court documents.
On the day before her children were found unresponsive, she visited a website that described an "effective" way of hanging a person, authorities said. On that same day, she searched Google for "does a hybrid car produce carbon monoxide while idling," according to court documents.
In 2014, the Berks County Children and Youth Services (CYS) had removed the children from Snyder's care, but they were returned to her care in February 2015, Adams said. He did not provide details on the case or why it was closed by the CYS.
At the time, he said, it appeared to be a "proper decision."
"If we could anticipate that this would happen, the children would never have been returned," Adams said.
Adams said he was not aware of any prior mental health issues that Snyder may have had. He said Conner and Brinley were her biological children and that their father "had not been in the picture."
He said that Snyder showed "little to no emotion" when she was arrested at her home on Monday. Adams said that they were yet to decide whether they would seek the death penalty for Snyder.
Snyder's attorney did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the children's obituary, Conner was a third-grade student who enjoyed building forts and playing video games.
Brinley, who was in her second year of pre-K, "loved playing dress up" and adored Elsa and Anna from her favorite movie, Frozen.