Trump-Backed Senate Candidate Loses Custody, Suspends Campaign

Sean Parnell's estranged wife won custody battle
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2021 7:26 AM CDT
Updated Nov 23, 2021 1:00 AM CST
Trump-Backed Senate Candidate Allegedly Abused Wife, Kids
In this May 11, 2021, file photo Sean Parnell speaks in McCandless, Pa. as he announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania's open US Senate seat to replace retiring Sen. Pat Toomey.   (Steve Mellon/Post-Gazette via AP, File)

(Newser) Update: Sean Parnell has suspended his campaign for a seat in the US Senate. The Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania 40-year-old made the announcement Monday after he lost his bitter custody battle. The judge in the case granted sole legal custody and primary physical custody of Parnell's three children to his estranged wife, saying he believed her allegations of abuse at the hands of Parnell, USA Today reports. Parnell, who has denied the accusations, says in a statement cited by CNN: "There is nothing more important to me than my children, and while I plan to ask the court to reconsider, I can't continue with a Senate campaign." A spokesperson for the former POTUS says the Pennsylvania seat "remains a top priority." Our original story from Nov. 2 follows:

The estranged wife of Republican Senate candidate Sean Parnell says he choked her, hit their young children, now aged 8 to 12, and was verbally abusive before their split in 2018. In sworn testimony at the start of a three-day custody trial in Butler, Pa., on Monday, Laurie Snell said Parnell, an Army veteran endorsed by former President Trump in the Pennsylvania race to replace Pat Toomey, once "tried to choke me out on a couch and I literally had to bite him" to get free. "He was strangling me," Snell said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. She also said he "started hitting the kids" in 2018, the year they separated.

Snell, who is seeking full custody and wasn't cross-examined, said Parnell slapped one child on the back, leaving fingerprint-shaped welts, and punched a closet door that swung into the face of a child, who was bruised and blamed by Parnell. "We were petrified," she testified, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. She added Parnell warned her not to call police because "it would ruin his image." She described other occasions when Parnell pinned her down, calling her a "whore" and "piece of s—," and forced her out of their vehicle on a highway, telling her to "go get an abortion." Parnell's campaign website, which shows him smiling alongside his three kids, notes he "will always vote to protect the unborn."

Parnell—who twice failed to prevent Snell's testimony through a gag order, per the Washington Post—countered that it was full of lies and inaccuracies. He said he "never raised a hand in anger towards my wife or any of our three children" and looked forward to presenting his case next week. But the accusations have already produced calls for Parnell to exit the Senate race. "He's a disaster of a candidate" who'd "lose to a golden retriever by double digits," former US Rep. Ryan Costello, a Chester County Republican, tweeted following the testimony. "He should write books & play hero on Fox & [get out] of the race." (Read more Pennsylvania stories.)

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