Sometimes, Julie Schenecker was lucid. Other times, she drifted off into incoherence.
During a 2011 police interview, the Florida mother tried to explain to an investigator why she had shot her two teenagers, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13.
“They were totally disrespectful,” she told a detective. “It was the last straw. My 16-year-old is just mouthy. It’s really ridiculous. She calls me names … I shot her in the back of the head. I shot her, I think, in the mouth, because it angers me so much.”
During her interview, the 53-year-old told investigator that she planned to kill herself after shooting her kids. “I loaded five rounds, and then I had to fill it up again,” she explained.
But Schenecker didn’t commit suicide. After drinking some beer and wine, she fell asleep on her patio, only to be awakened the next morning by a police officer. “I didn’t go with my plan,” she explained.
As the recording of her words echoed through a hushed Tampa, Florida, courtroom on Wednesday, Schenecker stared intently at a legal pad. The 12 jurors and four alternates followed along on a printed transcript, occasionally staring at the woman facing two charges of first-degree murder.
Schenecker’s ex-husband, Parker, sat stoically in the second row of the courtroom. During a break from testimony, he embraced his mother. Julie’s parents, sister and brother sat on the other side of the courtroom, looking distraught.
Throughout the trial, attorneys for both sides have watched the jurors carefully, looking for any reaction. Nine men and seven women sit in the jury box – a panel of 12 with four alternates.
Ranging in age from late 20s to late 60s, the jurors have diverse jobs and educational backgrounds. There is a strawberry farmer, a bus driver, a phlebotomist and a young man who is one credit shy of a criminal justice degree. Half of the jurors have children.
Her Ex-Husband Testifies
Colonel Parker Schenecker hasn’t missed a moment of the trial. He watches the testimony intently, rarely looking at the woman who he was married to for 20 years.
When he was called to the stand on Tuesday afternoon, he spoke with a clear, resolute voice. Throughout his testimony, he never referred to Julie by name, instead calling her “the defendant.”
When asked about the “strained” relationship between his ex-wife and daughter, Schenecker glanced around the courtroom. “I personally viewed it at the dinner table,” he explained. “I told my ex-wife that she needed to be the adult in the relationship. She was resorting to childish tactics with a child. It wasn’t getting her anywhere. We tried family counseling.”
Schenecker was deployed to Qatar during the shootings. At one point, he explained what happened as he left home. “Two or three days before I was deployed to Qatar, we were in our bedroom,” he said. “I reminded her I was leaving in a few days. I asked ‘Are you going to be okay with me being gone for a few days? If there’s a problem, I can ask [my mother] to come in, or someone else to come in. She looked me square in the eye and said, ‘I got this.’ ”
Although Julie Schenecker hasn’t yet taken the stand, the jury has heard many of her words. She scrawled her innermost thoughts in a spiral-bound journal both before and after the shootings.
While some of the entries were garbled and unintelligible, others made complete sense. “You’re a failure,” she wrote in block letters on one page.
On Tuesday afternoon, the judge and jury listened in rapt attention as a crime scene technician read from her journal.
“If you’re wondering why I decided to take out the kids, it was to protect them from embarrassing them for the rest of their lives. Also, kids of suicidal parents tend to commit suicide themselves. Calyx has talked about suicide since she was 12. The best job I ever had was bringing up my babies. That’s why I had to bring them on with me. It’s too possible that they inherited the DNA and lived their lives depressed or bipolar. I believe I saved them from the pain.”
“My meds never kicked in,” she wrote on another page. “Maybe that would have made a difference. I couldn’t do AA. I’m not an alcoholic. I didn t need a detox. I should have gone to the psych ward instead. I don’t believe I could ever recover or make up for my failures over the years.”
On another page of her journal, she addressed her then-husband. “Parker, I did always love you and wanted the best for you. You re the best dad,” she wrote. “I’ve learned so much from you. We have two beautiful children. I’m sorry I’ve taken that all away from you.”