Florida Jury: Julie Schenecker Guilty Of Murdering Her Two Teenage Children

| by Jared Keever

It took jurors less than two hours Thursday to convict a Florida woman of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting deaths of her two teenage children.

Jurors reached the decision after two weeks of testimony according to the Associated Press. They concluded 53-year-old Julie Schenecker was not legally insane when she loaded a .38 caliber pistol with hollow-point bullets and shot her 13-year-old son Beau and his sister Calyx, who was 16. 

Schenecker’s defense attorneys had argued that the mother suffered from severe bipolar disorder and was unable to distinguish between right and wrong. 

"If her thinking was rational and logical, she would have made a different decision," said defense attorney Jennifer Spradley in her closing argument. "A healthy Julie Schenecker would have never shot her children."

Prosecutor Jay Pruner did not see it that way. While he acknowledged that Schenecker suffered from mental illness, he said her crime was deliberate and carefully planned. He pointed out that she had made numerous entries in her journal detailing the plans and even waited three days for a background check in order to purchase the handgun. 

Schenecker is a retired military linguist. Her husband, Parker Schenecker, was also in the military and deployed to the Middle East when the shootings occurred. The couple divorced in 2011 after the shootings.

The marriage, according to Pruner, had been plagued by problems linked to Julie Schenecker’s mental health and excessive drinking. He argued that Julie resented her husband who had left her in a rehab facility over Thanksgiving. 

"I could have done this anytime," Schenecker wrote to her husband after her crime. "But luckily you weren't here. I might have taken you out too. That would have been a crying shame.”

"What does that tell you?” Pruner said to the jury. “It not only tells you about the anger and resentment she has but it tells you, ironically, that Parker Schenecker was probably safer in the Middle East than he was in a bed next to her.”

Both the prosecution and defense agreed that Schenecker had planned to kill herself after shooting the two children. They also agree that she passed out as a result of drinking and taking too many pills before she could carry out her full plan.

Juror Cheri Kendall told the Tampa Bay Tribune that she and her fellow jurors relied heavily on Schenecker’s journal entries to reach the verdict. She said that the entries indicated the mother knew that what she was doing was wrong and that the crime had plenty of premeditation.

"Being mentally ill is not the same as being insane,” she said.

Sentencing was handed down the same day. Schenecker will serve two consecutive life sentences in prison for her crime.

Sources: Associated Press, Tampa Bay Tribune