Pa. Senate candidate's estranged wife questioned in custody case

York Dispatch
Sean Parnell, seen at a campaign rally last year for then-President Donald Trump. (Keith Srakocic/AP photo)

The estranged wife of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell said Monday during a custody hearing that a judge had rejected her request for a restraining order in 2018 based on her allegations that he had harmed one of their children, a newspaper reported.

In the first episode, Laurie Snell accused Parnell of striking a child hard enough through a T-shirt to leave welts. In the second, an angry Parnell punched a closet door, sending it flying into another child’s face, leaving a bruise, she has testified.

But on Monday, under cross-examination in Butler County Court, Snell testified that a judge had rejected her request for a restraining order based on those two allegations, and that she went on vacation with him and their children almost immediately after he allegedly struck the child, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

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Later, after the closet door episode, Snell asked Parnell if he wanted to watch the children and told him, “I know you’re a good dad and it’s important that the kids see you,” according to text messages submitted as evidence, the Inquirer reported.

Monday's cross examination was the first opportunity for Parnell and his lawyer to question Snell after she testified last week that she had endured years of rage and abuse from him, including once being choked until she had to bite him.

Parnell responded to his estranged wife’s testimony last week by releasing a statement insisting he “never raised a hand in anger towards my wife or any of our three children” and saying he would “set the record straight” when he testifies.

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Parnell is endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the contested Republican primary, and Pennsylvania’s election next year for an open U.S. Senate seat is expected to be among the nation’s most competitive and help determine control of the chamber.

To underscore that support, Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are headlining a fundraiser for Parnell on Jan. 25 at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Parnells have been living apart for at least three years, but have split custody of their children evenly.

Laurie Snell is seeking sole custody and testified on Monday that Parnell had carried on an affair with another woman while they were married.

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Parnell's lawyer asked Snell during cross-examination whether Parnell was a good father.

“When they’re in public he’s great with the kids," Snell responded, the Tribune-Review of Greensburg reported. “I wanted to encourage the children having access to their dad if he was available.”

Snell later said that Parnell is a good dad “when he’s not angry," the Tribune-Review reported.

Testimony dealing with mental health evaluations of the parents and children was conducted behind closed doors, the Inquirer reported.

Parnell, a decorated former Army Ranger who led a platoon in Afghanistan, has told of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Parnell penned a memoir of his service in Afghanistan, which became a New York Times bestseller. He also has written four action novels, emerged as a regular guest on Fox News programs and ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year.

Parnell’s history with his wife became a subject in the Republican primary campaign, days after Trump endorsed Parnell over several other rivals.