No preliminary hearing for Missouri mom charged with driving kids into Kansas River, killing one
Injured toddler remains hospitalized two months after incident
photo by: Libby Stanford
The Missouri mother who allegedly purposely drove her children into the Kansas River to kill them and herself will not have a preliminary hearing, where witnesses would have publicly testified about details of the case prior to a full-fledged jury trial.
Instead, Scharron R. Dingledine, 26, of Columbia, Mo., waived her right to that hearing on Tuesday in Douglas County District Court.
Dingledine, charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, did not enter a plea, however, and won’t for a while. She and her appointed attorney, Carol Cline, said they wanted more time to work on the case prior to Dingledine’s arraignment, which the judge scheduled for Dec. 3. No trial date has been set.
Tuesday was Dingledine’s first time in court in person; she has appeared via video from the jail for previous hearings since her arrest on Aug. 3.
Dingledine — petite, with her hair pulled into a tight bun and wearing dark-rimmed glasses — was in jail clothes and ankle shackles. She stood and answered Judge Peggy Kittel’s questions loudly and clearly, mostly with “yes, ma’am” or “yes, your honor.”
In routine questioning to confirm defendants are clear-minded when they agree to waive court proceedings, Kittel asked Dingledine whether she was on any drugs or medication.
photo by: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office
Dingledine said she previously had a prescription for Lexapro, an antidepressant, but that her prescription was changed after she booked into the jail. She said she’s now taking two medications she described as mood stabilizers.
Dingledine’s mental health was a factor in her movements in the days leading up to the alleged crimes and has come up briefly in court hearings so far.
Shortly after her arrest, her attorney requested a mental evaluation, which found Dingledine was competent to move forward with her court case.
About 1:15 p.m. Aug. 3, emergency crews responded to reports of a car spotted in the Kansas River, with heads bobbing near it, just west of the bridge into downtown Lawrence.
Police officers pulled Dingledine and her 1-year-old son, Elijah Lake, from the water. The body of Dingledine’s daughter, 5-year-old Amiyah Bradley, was recovered from the river the next morning.
Two months after the incident, Elijah is still hospitalized.
A Children’s Mercy Hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday that he was listed in fair condition. He was initially hospitalized in critical condition, for at least a week after the incident.
Dingledine had arrived in Lawrence earlier the morning of Aug. 3 after a tumultuous chain of events that started at her home in Columbia in the early-morning hours of Aug. 2, the Journal-World previously reported.
Those included a domestic dispute with her live-in boyfriend, Elijah’s father; checking herself into a psychiatric hospital; filing a restraining order against the boyfriend and asking for custody of Elijah; stealing the boyfriend’s car with the children inside; stealing a stranger’s car in rural Missouri; then driving to the Kansas City area and, ultimately, Lawrence, according to allegations in law enforcement reports and court filings.
Dingledine told Lawrence police that she’d been driving around Lawrence, feeling depressed, and formed a plan to kill herself and the children because “she didn’t want anyone else to have them,” according to an affidavit prepared by Lawrence police. Police wrote that 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.”
photo by: Clinton Bradley/Contributed Photo
At a preliminary hearing, a judge would hear evidence in the case then determine whether there’s probable cause to order the defendant to stand trial. Kittel explained that to Dingledine and told her that under the state’s speedy trial law she would have a right to have her case heard by a jury within 150 days of entering her plea.
Among cases currently pending in Douglas County District Court, no other murder defendant has proceeded to trial without a preliminary hearing.
Dingledine remains jailed on $1 million bond.