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Parnell's estranged wife testifies he had an affair, sent 'harassing' texts during their marriage

Election 2020 Trump Sean Parnell
Keith Srakocic
Pennsylvania Republican congressional candidate Sean Parnell speaks ahead of a campaign rally with President Donald Trump Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 in Moon Township, Pa.

The estranged wife of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Sean Parnell testified Monday that Parnell had a nine-month affair in 2014 while they were married, and she shared a series of text messages in which he called her “evil” and “illogical.”

Laurie Snell, who is seeking custody of her three children, testified Monday morning is part of an ongoing custody battle in Butler County. She testified that Parnell had a relationship with Melanie Rawley, who she identified in court on Monday as his girlfriend, for nine months in 2014 during their marriage.

Evidence Monday morning largely focused on communication between the couple while they were separated.

Snell testified that after they were separated, Parnell would send her “harassing” texts. She also said Parnell was “tracking” her, asking her whose car was parked in her driveway.

She read a slew of text messages, submitted as evidence, regarding a time when they were trying to coordinate a visit for their daughter’s birthday. In those messages, he called her “a liar and a manipulative sociopath,” as well as “erratic."

In response, she asked him to stop saying such “mean, awful things.” He told her, “no one is bullying you at all,” she said.

In one instance, following her decision to join the Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Department, “he told me that the only women who are firefighters either want to hook up or are lesbians" she testified.

Parnell himself has yet to testify in the proceeding. He sat quietly, his face out of view, during the morning portion of the hearing.

The testimony came after Snell alleged last week that Parnell choked her and hit their young children, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Snell alleged that “[Parnell] tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him” to get free, the Inquirer reported last week.

“He was strangling me,” she said, and told the judge that Parnell once called her a “whore” and a “piece of s---“ while holding her down. The newspaper reported that Snell said Parnell slapped one of their children hard enough to leave a mark through the child’s shirt.

She also testified last week that Parnell told her to get an abortion while they were on a trip in 2008, the newspaper reported.

In a statement following last week’s hearing, Parnell said Snell “made a number of false allegations. There is no truth to them, not one. They are complete fabrications; not distortions or misrepresentations — just flat-out lies.”

Parnell has been widely considered a frontrunner in next year’s U.S. Senate race, winning the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and has been closely tied to Trump for several years. Trump announced Parnell’s first run for office in 2019, where he hoped to best Democrat Conor Lamb in the 17th Congressional district. Parnell lost by about 10,000 votes.

The Western Pennsylvania Republican is a decorated U.S. Army veteran, best-selling author and mortgage consultant. He’s also a contributor on Fox & Friends.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Tuesday.

Lucy Perkins is an editor and also reports on federal government and elections for the Government and Accountability team. Before joining the WESA newsroom, she was an NPR producer in Washington, D.C., working on news programs like All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. You can reach her at
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