Trial for alleged poisoning is postponed until November

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Sep. 1—The homicide trial for a Cochranton-area woman charged with poisoning her adopted handicapped son nearly one year ago has been continued to at least November.

Mary Diehl was to go on trial in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas on a lone count of homicide in September.

Pennsylvania State Police allege Diehl, 63, killed Najir William Diehl, 11, at their Mallard Road home in East Fairfield Township by having the child drink windshield washer fluid.

However, on Wednesday, Judge Mark Stevens ordered Diehl's trial continued to November and possibly January 2023, if necessary.

The order came following a more than one-hour pre-trial status conference Stevens held with Diehl, her defense attorney Eric Hackwelder and District Attorney Paula DiGiacomo.

Police initially were called to the home at 10:17 a.m. Sept. 6, 2021 — the Labor Day holiday — after Najir was found deceased in his bed by Diehl, state police said. The home is located about 5 miles north of Cochranton.

A copy of the criminal complaint filed by state police alleges Diehl "on or about September 5, 2021, with malice, premeditation and the specific intent to kill, did have the care dependent victim ingest poison for the purposes of causing his death."

Najir wasn't ambulatory on his own, according to authorities.

The complaint puts the timeframe of the alleged poisoning between 8:30 p.m. Sept. 5 and 10:11 a.m. Sept. 6.

Initially, Crawford County Coroner Scott Schell had ruled that the boy died of asphyxiation due to seizure disorder since he had a history of seizures.

Though no autopsy was performed, the Crawford County Coroner's Office had toxicology testing done following the death.

Toxicology testing samples tissue, blood and other body fluids to identify potential toxins in the body, including prescription medication and other drugs and substances.

Toxicology results received by the coroner's office from NMS Labs, a forensic testing laboratory, in late October 2021 found methanol poisoning in the child's blood samples.

Those test results then were reviewed by Dr. Eric Vey, forensic pathologist, at the request of the coroner's office and state police.

Diehl was charged with the child's homicide on Nov. 8, 2021, following an interview that same day with state police at the Meadville barracks.

At Wednesday's pretrial conference, both Hackwelder and DiGiacomo said they anticipated the testimony in the case to take one week.

DiGiacomo said she planned to have Vey testify to give his expert opinion on the NMS Labs report, which has been made available to the defense.

Hackwelder told the court his defense "did not anticipate challenging NMS Labs and its findings," but did plan to have his own medical expert, who has reviewed the toxicology report, testify about it.

Stevens' order requires the Crawford County District Attorney's Office to provide all expert reports to the defense.

The order also requires Hackwelder's medical expert prepare a written report on the toxicology results and provide its to the DA's office prior to the trial.

DiGiacomo said she anticipated calling 10 to 15 witnesses while Hackwelder said he planned to call his expert on the toxicology report as well as a few factual and character witnesses for Diehl.

Another pretrial conference for the case will be held later this fall at a date to be determined.

Following Wednesday's hearing, Diehl was returned to the Crawford County jail in Saegertown, where she has been held without bond since her arrest.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at .