Mom sentenced for endangering disabled daughter with carbon monoxide during suicide attempt

Mom sentenced for endangering disabled daughter with carbon monoxide during suicide attempt

Originally published by THE MORNING CALL

A Coopersburg mom will serve 11½-23 months in Lehigh County Jail, plus five years of probation, for endangering her disabled 18-year-old daughter while trying to end her own life in a closed garage filled with carbon monoxide.

Sara Rhoads was also ordered to have no contact with her daughter, who is diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy and other conditions and is now living with a family member.

“I can’t imagine the fear that was in her when you tried to kill her,” Judge Anna-Kristie M. Marks told Rhoads, noting that she had read accounts of the daughter’s terror from a family member who was present just after she and Rhoads were rescued. “The one person that she trusted most tragically failed her.”

Acting on a tip, Coopersburg police went to 16 E. Station Ave. around 1:30 a.m. Jan. 2, 2020, and discovered Rhoads and her daughter in a vehicle in a closed, one-car garage with the vehicle’s engine running.

Rhoads had written three suicide notes and sent a boyfriend a series of “cryptic” texts, court records say. Police later learned that she bought a dryer vent and duct tape with the intent of poisoning herself and her daughter with carbon monoxide.

Both women were transported to St. Luke’s Hospital-Upper Bucks for treatment, and both fully recovered.

Prosecutors tried to steer Rhoads into a probationary sentence with mental health treatment, but her repeated refusal to follow the rules of the programs in which she was enrolled while free on bail after her arrest landed her behind bars. Her case was initially earmarked for Team MISA, a unique Lehigh County pretrial program for defendants suffering from mental illness and/or substance abuse addiction.

“Services were put in place to help her, but she continues to make really bad decisions,” First Assistant District Attorney Steve Luksa said. “She just doesn’t seem to get it, and I don’t know what is going to impress upon her that what she did was wrong, and she needs to change her thought process.”

Rhoads’ attorney, John Baurkot, said Rhoads loves her daughter, but is a “very fractured and damaged person” who needs to work on herself before she can be in her child’s life again.

Rhoads, who said she will live in Quakertown after she’s paroled, wept during the court hearing, which was conducted via video from the jail.

“These past months, all I’ve had is time to think. About what I’ve done, mistakes that I’ve made, people that I’ve hurt. I don’t even know what it made me think of the bad things … at the time,” she said.

As part of the sentence, Rhoads must undergo drug and alcohol counseling and mental health treatment.