After deliberating for just two hours, a jury of eight men and four women in Hillsborough County, Florida, found Julie Schenecker guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for charges related to the 2011 shooting deaths of her two children.
Schenecker, 53, was charged with murder in the deaths of her daughter, 16-year-old Caylx, and her son, 13-year-old Beau. The state did not seek the death penalty.
Schenecker addressed the judge before he sentenced her to two life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 25 years per count, to be served concurrently.
“Your honor, I’m prepared and I accept your sentence. I apologize to everybody in this courtroom who have broken their lives,” Schenecker said through tears. “I know our children are in heaven. I want people to try to find comfort in believing as I do that they are in no pain and they are alive and enjoying everything and anything heaven has to offer,” she added.
Prosecutors presented evidence of premeditation at trial, including a journal in which Schenecker wrote out her plans for the “Saturday Massacre” as well as a receipt for the Smith & Wesson revolver she purchased days before the shootings.
In an interview with police, Schenecker said she shot her son to death while driving him to soccer practice on the night of January 27. Afterward, Schenecker said, she returned home, parked her van in the garage and shot her son one more time in the mouth — “his mouthy mouth,” she told authorities.
Still armed with the handgun, Schenecker told investigators, she went inside the home and shot her daughter twice in the head while Calyx was doing homework on her computer. Schenecker said she then wheeled her daughter’s body over to her bed and covered her body with a blanket.
At the time of the killings, Schenecker’s then-husband, U.S. Army Colonel Parker Schenecker, was working overseas in Afghanistan. Prosecutors argued Schenecker intended for her husband to find the children’s bodies when he returned home, citing Schenecker’s email to her husband indicating that the family was waiting for him, and the notes found on the home’s front door saying Schenecker and the children went to New York City and would be back Tuesday — the day Parker Schenecker was scheduled to return.
During her interview with detectives, Schenecker stated that she shot her children to death for talking back to her and being “mouthy.”
At the time of the killings, Schenecker’s defense attorneys said, she was being treated for depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Jurors heard testimony from several mental health experts who detailed Schenecker’s long history of mental illness.
Schenecker’s defense suggested to the jury that Parker Schenecker was distant in the way he handled Schenecker’s illness. Lead defense attorney Jennifer Spradley accused Parker Schenecker of knowingly leaving his suicidal wife behind to go to the Rose Bowl with his son. However, moments later Spradley told jurors that Parker Schenecker wasn’t to be blamed for the children’s death.
The defense also implied that Schenecker’s treating psychiatrist, Dr. Demian Obregon was “in over his head” when he began treating Schenecker at the start of his psychiatric rotation in the summer of 2010. The defense portrayed their client as someone who had suffered from severe mental illness for two decades and someone who took great steps to try and relieve herself of some of the mental anguish she was suffering, but that she was unable to combat the illness.
Schenecker’s attorneys argued their client was legally insane when she shot her children to death, and was unable to tell right from wrong.