Attorney: Daughter Accused of Killing Mother with Crossbow has ‘Long-Standing History’ of Mental Illness

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PALMERTON -- The attorney for a woman charged with killing her mother with a crossbow said his client has a history of mental illness.

Police charged Lisa Caplan, 51, with killing her 71-year-old mother Sandra Barndt at a home in Palmerton.

According to police reports, Caplan lived with her mother's dead body for two days.

State police say on Wednesday, Caplan shot her mother in the neck with a crossbow, reloaded, then shot her in the face and went to bed.

Caplan told Newswatch 16 her mom attacked her.

The family attorney now says Caplan has a long history of mental illness, including chronic schizophrenia, was recently released from a psychiatric facility, and didn't know what she was doing.

Attorney Jon Ostroff said Caplan is "unable to comprehend what she has been charged with doing."

Ostroff blames the death on a "broken mental health system."

"For decades, Ms. Caplan has been in and out of mental health facilities. Throughout this time, she has been a danger to herself and her family. During these years, it has been her family's long-standing position that she should remain under the care and close watch of mental health professionals who are trained to properly treat and control her. Due to the failure of the mental health system, she was recently released from a psychiatric institution once again. Yesterday, she was charged by police with using a crossbow to shoot and kill her elderly mother," Ostroff said.

Ostroff wants police to order a psychiatric assessment of Caplan immediately.


  • Will

    2 houses over from me and my family, in a town where NOTHING ever happens. I couldn’t believe it. Then when I saw who it was, and realized it was the lady who walks around town carrying a shovel, and trying to avoid the cracks in the sidewalk… I couldn’t believe that no one has done anything about it. She obviously to everyone who ever saw her had mental issues. Some of you claiming she isnt crazy, she is a cold blooded murderer. Yes, she did commit a murder. Guess what? I live in Palmerton, you don’t. I have seen this lady numerous times, you haven’t. There is no argument she has mental issues. Between the shovel she carried, avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk, random yelling, and knocking on peoples doors at late hours of the night… Yes she has real issues. The bigger question is why did no one do anything about this, and why was she released recently from a mental hospital with them labeling her as being ok???

  • Alpa Chino

    She didn’t know what she was doing-but shot her mother not once-but twice – meaning she had to make the decision to shoot again. And crossbows aren’t the easiest weapon to reload, so she obviously had a period of clarity and understanding of things to murder her own mother. Stop being crybabies and blame every negative action on a disease, another person, etc, etc.. She’s a murderer, now she’ll be able to get the “help” she needs permanently from the state of pa

  • Jerry

    Why Pennsylvania has never had a major active shooter situation is beyond me. Pennsylvania government doesn’t take care of people with mental illness and all they do is throw them in jail. Drown them in fines suspend. Their drivers license and all types of abuse. When an active shooter does pop up you’ll get no sympathy from me

    • George banks

      Oh Jerry, oh Jerry. We sure did have a major active shooter incident in Pennsylvania. Maybe you’re too young to remember. One hint: Wilkesbarre. I’d rather not talk anymore about it.

  • III%

    Just another fine example of the liberal do goods trying to think we can have a utopian world where people with mental illness and mentally challenged individuals can be integrated into society with a few drugs and sitting in group therapy talking about their problems

    • Conroy

      As someone who has major depression and anxiety I can say that you are right to a point but also wrong. I’ve been on meds for awhile now, I’ve tried therapy, nothing works for me so far but that’s just me. But there are many many cases of these things having a positive impact on people’s lives. And even when those things don’t work there other Solutions like ECT and TMS which help sort of reset brain function, that is what I’m trying now. But my depression is fighting me tooth and nail and a part of me wants to stay depressed because it’s easier. My point is don’t judge all mentally I’ll as the same, there’s a huge spectrum that most people won’t and can’t understand until they have experienced it.

  • EJS

    Always some excuse. NOT MY FAULT. It;s my condition, it’s the system etc. No personal responsibility anymore. Bunch of crap. Oh my , I had a bad childhood–My parents got divorced—I was bullied OMG Grow up and get a back bone. Make some choices for the good. We all have that option. Just easier to blame every other circumstance.

    • 🙄

      Do not agree. Read up on schizophrenia. That’s all I have to say. It’s a mental illness that really sux!

  • Drugs r bad

    If she’s so mentally ill how did she garnish the knowledge to work a crossbow not once but twice and also knew enough that first shot didn’t killer her so shoot her again! Murder is murder so execute her asap!

    • 🙄

      You obviously don’t know about schizophrenia. They have multiple personalities and hear all kinds of voices in their heads. It’s an awful mental illness. They do things that they would normally not do. Someone who is mentally unstable like that can not comprehend what is going on. My nephew has it and it’s aweful when he goes off the deep end. When he’s good he’s good. So I do not agree that it’s an excuse. It’s no joke. Schizophrenia really sux.

  • 🙄

    Schizophrenia is no joke! My nephew has it. When they’re good they’re good bit when they’re not, they don’t know the difference between real and not real. It’s sad cuz when they get released before they should be, they are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. Anyone with mental illnes are not suppose to access to any type of weapon no matter what it is. I figured this woman had mental illness. And the system does fail in this area and it is truly sad for these people.

  • Dreama

    Sadly we don’t institutionalize these people anymore ! They are given meds and sent off to take care of themselves which obviously they are not capable of doing .

    • 🙄

      That’s true and alot of the meds they are given by trial and error. They have to find the ones that level everything out and if they’re not right it’s back to square one and it really sux!

  • les

    Oh, but mentally ill people are usually non-violent.
    I guess this, as well as other situations dispels this ‘myth’.

    • 🙄

      Schizophrenic people have a higher percentage rate of suicide also. Most of the time they’re not violent but yes they can be and it’s truly scary.

  • rurbanite

    If her attorney condemns the mental health system as broken, why is she asking that same system to do a psychiatric evaluation?

    • El Ma

      The approach to “mental health” has always involved stigma and ridicule. Even the professionals can’t understand what a mentally disordered person experiences – they can only gather general symptoms and descriptions, compare brain chemistry, and research the patients’ family histories. With all of that information, they still can’t prevent or predict the development of mental illnesses.

      We do joke about it, because we don’t live with it or experience it, ourselves, but it is a truly dreadful thing to manage, even under the best of circumstances. The in-patient facilities are no better than holding facilities until the patients can be determined as “managed,” and released. After that, it’s, “Bye-bye! Good luck!” And, off these people go into the wild, blue yonder.

      What a terrible shame.

  • JP

    If she has mental problems how did she get a crossbow? That is one reason doctors must report to the police when a mental person is allowed to be released.

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