Woman admits firing gun near psychiatrist husband
By Kevin Amerman
January 2, 2014
Patricia Lee Mitchell, 56, denied shooting the gun directly at her husband as alleged by authorities, but admitted she fired it in her living room as he slept on the floor around 3:45 a.m. on June 22 at the couple’s home on Vera Cruz Road.
“I was holding the gun and it accidentally discharged,” she said.
Mitchell, who said she suffers from mental illness and was prescribed medicine by her husband and another psychiatrist, according to her attorney, pleaded guilty to three counts of reckless endangerment, all misdemeanors.
Lehigh County Deputy District Attorney Anna-Kristie Morffi Marks said one count was for firing the gun. The second was for waving the gun during a struggle with her husband, Dr. John Mitchell, after it fired. And the third, Marks said, was for tossing the gun out her car window as she fled the home.
Marks said Mitchell crashed her car into a tree after tossing the gun out the window and suffered a head injury which, according to the attorneys, furthered her mental issues. She also broke her neck in the crash, her attorney, Heidi Eakin, said.
In return for the plea, charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment were withdrawn.
Mitchell also pleaded guilty to DUI for a separate case in which she was found driving drunk around 11 a.m. on Oct. 18 near the home she had shared with her husband.
Mitchell had been free on $30,000 unsecured bail, but the DUI arrest caused her bail to be revoked. She appeared in court Thursday handcuffed and wearing a beige prison jumpsuit.
Mitchell’s deal calls for her to serve six months to 24 months minus a day in jail. By shaving one day off the maximum sentence, Mitchell will be allowed to serve the sentence in county jail instead of state prison. Her deal calls for her to be paroled into an inpatient mental health facility. She must also serve four years and six months on probation.
Judge James T. Anthony is scheduled to hand down the sentence next month.
Attorneys in the case said Mitchell, a registered nurse, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from a past assault, mood disorder and consequences from the head injury.
Mitchell was urged by Eakin several times to stay focused on Anthony’s questions after offering lengthy answers to simple questions. At one point, she asked Anthony if her nursing license would be revoked — something the judge said he can’t control.
“I’m worried about my license,” she said. “I need to support myself for the rest of my life. I’m going through a divorce.”
Her husband, who runs the Mitchell Center on Harrison Street in Emmaus, attended the hearing with attorney Patrick Reilly and testified briefly when his wife claimed she didn’t fire the gun at him.
“I was asleep and I heard a loud boom,” the husband said. “I immediately jumped up. She was 6 feet from me.”