The estranged wife of Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell testified under oath today that he choked her until she bit him to escape, that he hit their young children and verbally lashed out at her with obscenities and insults.
In tearful testimony, Laurie Parnell told a family court judge said that her husband once called her a “whore” and a “piece of s — ” while pinning her down, and other time lashed out at their young children.
Once, she said, Sean Parnell slapped one child hard enough to leave fingerprint-shaped welts through the back of the child’s T-shirt.
And she said he once got so angry he punched a closet door with such force it swung into the child’s face and left a bruise.
She said Parnell told his child: “That was your fault.”
She also testified that after a Thanksgiving trip in 2008 he briefly forced her out of their vehicle alongside a highway after raging at her, telling her to “go get an abortion.”
In a statement released by his campaign, Sean Parnell, a decorated Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and was endorsed this summer by former one-term President Trump, vigorously disputed his wife’s claims and said he was looking forward to rebutting them when he presents his case next week.
Still, the sworn, public testimony — which took place after Sean Parnell had tried and failed to win a court order silencing his wife — seemed certain to significantly damage his ambitions, after he had emerged as the likely front runner in a critical U.S. Senate race, one of a handful that could decide control of the chamber.
The state’s incumbent Republican senator, Pat Toomey, is not seeking another term.
Parnell’s campaign web site prominently displays photos of him smiling alongside the couple’s three school-age children.
The site also describes him as an abortion-opponent who “will always vote to protect the unborn.”
In a cramped, hot hearing room in this city north of Pittsburgh, Laurie Parnell painted him as a father filled with intense rage and post-traumatic stress disorder, saying the abuse began even before they were married, in 2010, but became worse in 2017 and 2018.
Both incidents involving Sean and their children happened in those latter years.
They separated in May 2018.
Once, she testified, “He tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him” to get free. “He was strangling me.”
He would rage at her during long car rides to visit family, she said. “He would go off on me and I wasn’t sure why.”
Wearing jeans, leather boots and a black Under Armour jacket, Sean Parnell watched just feet from his wife as she testified.
His expression was not visible to reporters in the room.
Today was the start of a three-day custody trial.
Laurie Parnell, who is seeking primary custody, was not subjected to cross-examination today, so she was not challenged on her account.
This article appears in The Philadelphia Inquirer.