WILKES-BARRE — Melissa Scholl’s son took the stand Tuesday as testimony opened in the re-trial of the 33-year-old mother who prosecutors say attempted to kill herself and her two young children.
The day also included the judge issuing a stern warning to Scholl’s attorney after he raised perjury allegations.
Julian Scholl, now 9, was just 7 on Dec. 9, 2015, when he and his sister, Vera, then 5, were found by a bus driver in the parking lot of Williams Bus Line on Blackman Street. Prosecutors allege Scholl tried to asphyxiate them with exhaust fumes by running a garden hose from her car’s tailpipe to its driver’s-side window.
Julian told county prosecutor Angela Sperrazza he couldn’t remember much of what happened “that dreadful night.” Under cross-examination by defense attorney Larry Kansky, Julian repeated that he couldn’t remember the date or everything that occurred.
Julian did say his mother was upset because her estranged husband was not helping her raise the children. He said she decided to take him and his sister for a ride and ended up in the Williams Bus Line lot, across the street from the Scholl home. Julian said his mother was talking to her mother on the phone and crying, saying she was going to take her own life.
“Our mom’s not a bad person,” Julian said. “She said this might be the last kiss and hug she would give us.”
Julian said he didn’t think his mother was going to harm him or his sister because she had asked her mother to pick them up.
In his opening statement to the jury of seven women and five men, Kansky said investigators “jumped to a conclusion in four minutes,” and that Scholl never intended to harm her kids. He said Scholl’s actions constituted “a cry for help,” noting that when they were found, the car was not even running.
Scholl’s first trial in June ended in a mistrial when the jury could not reach a verdict.
“This wasn’t a cry for help,” Sperrazza said in her opening. “This was a calculated plan that was stopped by someone who wasn’t supposed to be there.”
The bus driver who found Scholl and the children in the car had returned early from a scheduled run that had been canceled.
In his opening, Kansky told the jury it must find Scholl guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and not to jump to conclusions. He urged them to exercise common sense, patience and courage.
Kansky told the jury Scholl’s car was destroyed before the defense could examine it. He said it contained pillows, a blanket and a suitcase for the children to take to their grandparents’ home, showing Scholl never intended to harm them.
Attorney gets rebuke
Before the jury was seated, Kansky dropped a bombshell, charging that Luzerne County Det. Lt. Deborah Parker committed perjury at Scholl’s preliminary hearing. Kansky moved to dismiss both counts of attempted homicide against his client, stating Scholl was denied her constitutional rights and that justice was obstructed.
“Detective Parker created a fraudulent hearing, from which this trial stems,” Kansky argued.
He told Judge David Lupas he has the evidence — the very evidence being used by the prosecution — and he is only trying to save the time and expense of a trial.
Lupas, obviously surprised by Kansky’s allegations, questioned the timing. The judge said the hearing in question was held a year-and-a-half ago.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Lupas said, asking Kansky to cite some case law to support his claims.
Kansky argued Parker’s testimony “was false,” referring to Scholl’s extracted phone and text messages, despite an expert determining none existed.
Lupas denied Kansky’s motion, prompting Kansky to ask for an immediate reconsideration.
“It’s immediately reconsidered, and it’s immediately denied,” Lupas said.
When Kansky returned to the defense table, he slammed some documents on the table, causing Lupas to chide him.
“Please lower your voice and stop slamming documents on the table,” Lupas said. “This is a court of law and I will not tolerate such behavior.”
The trial resumes Wednesday morning. Scholl remains in the county lockup.