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2022 Senate watch

Estranged wife of Trump-backed Pennsylvania Senate candidate testifies he beat her and their kids

Laurie Snell, the estranged wife of Pennsylvania U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell, testified under oath Monday that Parnell hit her, choked her, called her a "whore" and "piece of s--t" while pinning her down, and slapped one of their children so hard he left fingerprint-shaped welts under the child's shirt, among other abuse. Monday was the first of three days of custody hearings in family court. Snell is seeking primary custody of their three children, ages 8 to 12.

On one occasion, Parnell "tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him" to get free, Snell testified. "He was strangling me." He would also scream at her on car trips for reasons she didn't understand, Snell said, including a Thanksgiving trip in 2008 where Parnell pulled over on the highway, briefly forced her out of the car, and yelled at her to "go get an abortion." She said Parnell, a decorated Army veteran, suffers from with post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed after combat tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007.

In a statement released by his campaign, Parnell accused his estranged wife of lying about unspecified details. "Let me emphatically state: I have never raised a hand in anger towards my wife or any of our three children," the statement said. "What happened today in court was not justice, nor did it have any basis in fact or truth." Parnell was in the courtroom Monday, but "his expression was not visible to reporters in the room," The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"The sworn, public testimony — which took place after 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 frontrunner in a critical U.S. Senate race, one of a handful that could decide control of the chamber," the Inquirer reports. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Parnell for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey (R) and campaigned with him this fall.

"For Trump, the flurry of charges from Snell meant that he has now endorsed two Republican candidates shadowed by domestic abuse allegations," along with Georgia GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker, the Inquirer notes. "Walker's ex-wife has testified that he was physically abusive and threatening toward her."