Kansas River murder suspect had contact with Missouri police, court and mental health facility the day before tragedy in Lawrence
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff's Office
First thing this coming Monday, Scharron Dingledine was supposed to appear before a Missouri judge to explain why she wanted custody of her 1-year-old son.
Instead, she is now in the custody of the Douglas County Jail charged with murder. The toddler is in a Kansas City-area hospital fighting for his life. And Dingledine’s 5-year-old daughter is dead, buried earlier this week by other relatives.
Monday morning’s hearing in Boone County court was ordered by a judge on Aug. 2 — the same afternoon Dingledine applied for a restraining order against the boy’s father, which she did after checking out from a short stay in a mental health facility.
That application was filed almost exactly 24 hours before Dingledine allegedly arrived in Lawrence in a stolen car and drove it into the Kansas River with her children inside, about 1:15 p.m. Aug. 3.
Court documents and other information obtained by the Journal-World give a clearer picture of some of Dingledine’s actions in the days before the 26-year-old Columbia, Mo., woman was pulled from the river near downtown Lawrence and subsequently arrested.
Police called to domestic dispute
Dingledine had been living with her 5-year-old daughter, Amiyah Bradley; her 1-year-old son, Elijah Lake; and Elijah’s father, Kaleb Lake, at an apartment in Columbia.
About 1:30 a.m. Aug. 2, Columbia police responded to a domestic dispute that had become physical, according to a police report. A police spokesman declined to release more information about that report because the investigation is still active and ongoing.
The family’s downstairs neighbor said they had lived there a couple months and fought often but that she’d never seen police there before. Jasmine Washington said she often saw the little girl riding her bike outside, but that the woman and the little boy weren’t out much — they stayed home during the day while the father went to work, and they seemed to keep to themselves.
photo by: Clinton Bradley/Contributed Photo
That morning, however, Jasmine Washington said she called 911 herself after being awoken by sounds of a fight, then banging on the floor and the woman yelling, “Please help me, call the police, please help me.”
She said the police arrived quickly, and she overheard officers speaking to Lake and saying that Dingledine was willing to go to the mental health facility and check herself in voluntarily.
Taken to mental health facility
Columbia police did take Dingledine to the facility, and she agreed to leave the children at the apartment with Lake, police confirmed to the father of Amiyah, Clinton Bradley of Columbia.
Bradley said he has contacted law enforcement looking for answers about what led to Amiyah’s death, and spoke to Columbia police Wednesday night. Since splitting with Dingledine, he had not seen Amiyah in more than a year, though Dingledine cared for her and the two didn’t have a formal court-ordered custody plan, Bradley said.
“It was by her own will that she said that she would go,” Bradley told the Journal-World of Dingledine’s stay at the mental health facility, which police confirmed to him to explain why he was not contacted to care for Amiyah.
It’s not clear what time Dingledine left the facility, but documents indicate that afterward she went to a Columbia women’s shelter.
Her application for a restraining order against Lake, filed in Boone County Circuit Court, is stamped at 1:46 p.m. Aug. 2. As opposed to being completed at the courthouse or the police station, the stamp indicates the application was filled out at a “confidential” location. The application was faxed from a number belonging to the shelter.
Restraining order, custody requested
In her application for a restraining order, Dingledine said she and Lake had fought the night of July 31 and that she took the children and left the apartment — in Lake’s Pontiac Grand Prix — late that night.
She said she returned the next morning, Aug. 1, and they fought again but “Later, we resolved the issue and I decided to stay with him.”
Around 2 a.m. Aug. 2, she said she confronted Lake about something she’d seen on his phone and the argument became “violent.” She said she took the children and began to walk, then saw a police officer and flagged him down.
“I think he will try to kill me or I will try to kill him,” Dingledine wrote in her application for a restraining order.
Dingledine also requested that a judge give her custody of Elijah, with visitation for Lake, and order him to pay child support.
Boone County Circuit Court Judge Leslie Schneider signed a temporary restraining order, instructing Lake not to contact Dingledine or go near her anywhere, including at her confidential address. According to the order signed Aug. 2, the judge did not rule on the custody matter, but scheduled a hearing on the situation for 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 13.
About eight hours after Dingledine filed her application, around 9:30 p.m. Aug. 2, a car was reported stolen out of the driveway of a home in rural Madison, Mo., a tiny town about 45 minutes north of Columbia.
Left behind at the house was a Pontiac Grand Prix.
The owner of the stolen car, who has since seen Dingledine’s photo in the news, has said she’d never seen her before.
The Monroe County (Mo.) Sheriff’s Office said it started following leads — and put the stolen car into a national law enforcement database within an hour or two of the theft — but didn’t get any “hits” from it turning up elsewhere until the next night, Aug. 3.
That’s when the stolen 2010 Chevrolet Equinox was towed out of the Kansas River after sinking with Dingledine and her two children aboard.
Car into river
About 1:15 p.m. Aug. 3, Lawrence police said they received multiple reports of a car in the river just west of the bridge into downtown Lawrence.
photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World Photo
One 911 call came from Wesley Johnson, of Eudora.
Johnson said he was driving northbound on the bridge, on his way to work, when he looked over to his left — westward — and saw the car.
He said most of the car was already underwater, with maybe only the top third still visible. He said he saw what he thought were two heads bobbing in the water near it.
It was “concerning,” he said. “I thought, ‘How the hell did the car get there?'”
He called 911, and later was also interviewed by police, he said, though that’s all he knows about the incident.
Lawrence police arrived at the scene quickly, and officers pulled Dingledine and Elijah out of the water.
Dingledine was taken to a hospital, then to jail, and formally charged with murder and attempted murder on Monday. According to the complaint filed in Douglas County District Court, prosecutors allege she intentionally drove the car into the river to kill the children.
Her appointed attorney has requested a mental competency evaluation, and her next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 28.
As night fell Aug. 3, emergency crews, including divers, called off their search for Amiyah’s body but located it the next morning.
Elijah remains hospitalized in critical condition in the Kansas City area, a Children’s Mercy Hospital spokeswoman confirmed late Friday.
Elijah’s father, Lake, knows more about Dingledine’s struggles and some of what occurred before she ended up in Lawrence, but said he is unwilling to share details with the media at this time, including responding to allegations about him that she made to the court. Lake said he had spoken with Lawrence police.
Lake was also a father figure to Amiyah, and said right now he is grieving her death and focusing on Elijah.
“My son’s fighting for his life,” Lake said Friday. As for Elijah’s prognosis for recovery, he said, “It’s still just a waiting game.”
Particularly with the story making national news, Lake said he knows a lot of people are praying for his son.
“It’s all greatly appreciated,” he said.