Mother accused of driving car into river pleads not guilty in daughter’s drowning
photo by: Sara Shepherd
Story updated at 3:14 p.m. Monday
A 26-year-old mother on Monday pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder after allegedly driving her car into the Kansas River last summer in an attempt to drown her family.
After passersby reported a car and people floating in the water, Scharron R. Dingledine, of Columbia, Mo., was pulled from the river near downtown Lawrence on the afternoon of Aug. 3.
Rescuers also pulled her 1-year-old son, Elijah Lake, to shore. But Dingledine’s 5-year-old daughter, Amiyah Bradley, didn’t survive. Her body was recovered from the river the next morning.
Previously, Dingledine waived her preliminary hearing and asked for extra time before arraignment. After entering the not guilty plea for Dingledine, her appointed attorney, Carol Cline, asked for a few more weeks before setting a trial date.
Dingledine’s trial-setting hearing is scheduled for Dec. 17 in Douglas County District Court.
District Attorney Charles Branson agreed, saying he needed time to finish reviewing evidence and “have an additional conversation or two about the direction of this case” before setting a trial. Branson said documents include a “voluminous” amount of material he has received from the defense, as well as documents from Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
According to a subpoena in the case, the hospital was asked to produce records from its care of Dingledine and Elijah.
Elijah was transferred to a Kansas City area hospital and remained hospitalized in critical condition for at least a week after the incident and for weeks after that in serious condition. An update on his condition wasn’t immediately available on Monday.
Dingledine’s mental health was a factor in her movements in the days leading up to the alleged crimes — which included a domestic dispute followed by a brief stay at a psychiatric hospital in Columbia — and she said in court that she’d been prescribed an antidepressant and mood stabilizers.
Dingledine told Lawrence police that she left Columbia with the children the previous day, spent the morning of Aug. 3 driving around Lawrence feeling depressed, then formed a plan to kill herself and the children because “she didn’t want anyone else to have them,” according to an affidavit for her arrest. Dingledine told investigators she accelerated into the river with both children with her in the front seat, unrestrained, “knowing neither child could swim and would likely die.”
On Aug. 28, following a mental evaluation, the judge found she was competent to move forward with her court case.
Dingledine remains jailed on $1 million bond.