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Hummelstown woman accused of trying to drown children, claiming they were 'possessed'

Candice McElwee, 32, was reportedly suffering from mental illness issues when she tried to drown two of her children on Sept. 6, claiming she was "baptizing" them.
Credit: Pennsylvania State Police
Candice McElwee

DAUPHIN, Pa. — A Dauphin County woman has been charged with attempted murder after police say she attempted to drown two of her children last month.

Candice Gail McElwee, 32, of Hummelstown, was suffering from mental distress at the time and believed her children were "possessed," State Police said in a criminal complaint affidavit.

She allegedly tried to drown the children near Stoney Creek in Middle Paxton Township on the morning of Sept. 6. 

At about 3:30 a.m. that day, a homeowner noticed a white van parked near his driveway on the 1300 block of Stone Glen Road, and saw a woman, later identified as McElwee, leading four children toward Stoney Creek.

The homeowner followed them and found McElwee and her children at a drainage ditch near the creek. 

When asked what she was doing, McElwee allegedly told the homeowner her van had run out of gas and she wanted to "baptize" her children. The homeowner later told police that much of what McElwee was saying did not make sense.

The man drove McElwee to a nearby gas station and purchased two gallons of gas for her vehicle. Once they returned to the van, McElwee put the gas in the tank and drove off, police said.

Responding troopers were unable to locate McElwee's vehicle, police said.

Later that morning, State Police received a call from McElwee's boyfriend, who reported that she and her children had not been seen in two days. McElwee had reportedly taken the two children she had with her boyfriend and had picked up her two older children from other relatives. He advised she had mental health issues and was believed to be using methamphetamine to treat them, according to police.

State Police issued a "Be On the Lookout" advisory for McElwee and her children.

At 2:43 p.m. on Sept. 6, they were located in North Middleton Township, Cumberland County, when a homeowner contacted police after speaking to her. 

McElwee reportedly told the homeowner one of her children was "possessed," and that she needed to "eliminate" one child. The child would then be "resurrected, and all will be good again" according to McElwee. 

North Middleton Township Police arrived on the scene, took McElwee into custody, and transported the children to the State Police barracks in Carlisle, where they were recovered by a relative.

In a later interview with police, the children, ages 12, 10, 7, and 3, reported that McElwee had been driving around with them for days. She allegedly told them that their father was "possessed by the devil," and that they were "the only true Christians."

On the morning of Sept. 6, McElwee reportedly said she was going to baptize one of the children, and held the girl's head underwater two or three times until the girl swallowed water. After the third time, she yelled "we're all going to die" and rushed the children back to their vehicle.

McElwee reportedly told the children she was seeing people that were half-human, half-animal. She reportedly yelled, "Fine! I'll drown my own daughter!" and took another child to the creek, holding her head under water until she passed out.

The other children were told to dig a hole near the side of the creek, the children told police. When the girl stopped moving, McElwee brought her to the hole they'd dug and placed her in it.

Before they could cover the girl with rocks, the children said, McElwee was approached by the homeowner.

McElwee reportedly told the children she wanted to bury them all under rocks, but they would be "resurrected," according to police.

McElwee is charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault of a person less than 13 years of age, and four counts of endangering the welfare of children.

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