State Senate candidate Sean Parnell suspended his campaign Monday after losing a custody battle in Butler County Court of Common Pleas.
“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,” Parnell said in a written statement. “My focus right now is 100% on my children, and I want them to know I do not have any other priorities and will never stop fighting for them.”
Laurie Snell, Parnell's estranged wife, will get sole custody of the couple's three children, according to the ruling by Senior Common Pleas Judge James Arner.
Parnell, a Republican candidate, was seeking an open U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
Arner said stability and continuity of education and care, availability to care for the children and the level of conflict between the parents were the primary factors in the decision.
During proceedings, Snell testified that Parnell abused her and the children. Parnell later testified otherwise and claimed he had a good relationship with the children.
“In evaluating Sean Parnell's testimony, I find it is less credible,” the judge said. “He simply denied that all of (the) incidents ever happened, except he did describe his view of the incident when his younger son was hit by a closet door.”
Despite the claims of abuse, Parnell's visitation with the children will be unsupervised, which Snell herself supported.
“The fact that Laurie Snell has agreed that Sean Parnell can have substantial periods of unsupervised custody indicates she does not view him as a threat of harm to the children,” Arner said.
Arner said he also made his consideration based on some information that will remain confidential, including testimony of all three children and mental and physical assessments of the children and parents.
Staff writer Eddie Trizzino contributed to this report.