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Julie Powers SCHENECKER

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide - She allegedly shot her two children because "talked back and were mouthy"
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: January 28, 2011
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: January 13, 1961
Victims profile: Her son Beau, 13, and daughter Calyx, 16
Method of murder: Shooting (.38 revolver)
Location: Tampa, Florida, USA
Status: Pleaded not guilty. Ordered held without bail
 
 

 
 

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The Schenecker double homicide occurred on January 28, 2011; Calyx and Beau Schenecker were found dead by police at their home in Tampa, Florida. Their mother, Julie Powers Schenecker, was arrested on suspicion of their murder after an alleged confession.

On January 29, Schenecker was admitted to Tampa General Hospital, but was released the next day. She was charged with two counts of first degree murder and indicted by grand jury on February 9. Seven days later she entered a plea of not guilty, with her legal team indicating they would pursue a defense of the grounds of insanity.

Parker Schenecker divorced his wife in May 2011 and subsequently filed a civil lawsuit for wrongful deaths, following dispute over distribution of the family's assets.

Schenecker family

Julie Powers Schenecker, (born January 13, 1961, from Muscatine, Iowa) lived in Tampa, Florida with her husband, U.S. Army Colonel Parker Schenecker, and their two children. The couple met in Germany during the 1980s, where Julie Powers was working as a Russian linguist.

Their daughter, Calyx, was 16 and son, Beau, was 13 at the time of their deaths. According to the New York Daily News, the children were described as "cheerful and seemingly happy."

Previous investigation

Police visited the Schenecker home November 6, 2010, to investigate an allegation of child abuse made by Calyx. No charges were filed against Schenecker but, according to the police report, Schenecker acknowledged that she had hit her daughter. Calyx told a counselor in a weekly meeting that her mother had hit her in the face when they were heading home from cross-country practice November 2, 2010, according to the police report. Investigators that visited the home said there were no visible injuries on Calyx when the report was filed four days later. Calyx had told investigators that Schenecker had "hit her with an open hand on her face for approximately 30 seconds," according to the report.

Murder

On January 28, 2011, police visited the property after receiving a call from Schenecker's mother, who expressed concern at not being able to reach her daughter. Officers found Beau Schenecker in a sport utility vehicle in the garage and Calyx Schenecker in her bedroom; both had been shot by a .38 revolver and covered in blankets. Julie Schenecker was found unconscious on the rear porch covered in blood.

Police stated that Schenecker admitted to killing her children because they "talked back and were mouthy". A police statement said, "She described the crimes in detail." A note was allegedly found in the house describing a plan to murder her children and commit suicide.

According to the arrest affidavit, Beau was shot twice in the head on January 27 while being driven by his mother from soccer practice. Schenecker then drove home and killed Calyx in her room as she was doing her homework on her computer. The revolver had been purchased five days before the killings. Calyx was found on her bed covered by a blanket.

Criminal trial

Police arrested Julie Schenecker at the scene, later that day she was admitted to hospital for a "pre-existing medical condition". She was released the next day and taken to Hillsborough County Jail, where she is being held without bail. On February 9, 2011, Schenecker was indicted by a grand jury for first degree murder. Her arraignment was set for February 16, where she entered a plea of not guilty, with her defence team indicating they would pursue an insanity defense. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Schenecker.

Civil lawsuit

The Scheneckers were divorced in May 2011. Following dispute over the distribution of their assets, particularly money for use in Schenecker's legal defense, Parker Schenecker filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his wife.


Accused of killing her kids, Julie Schenecker places blame on their dad

By Jodie Tillman - Tampa Bay Times

December 6, 2011

TAMPA — Attorneys for a woman accused of murdering her two children say another person also bears blame in the deaths: their father.

Parker Schenecker knew his then-wife, Julie, was mentally unstable yet left the teenagers in her care while he served overseas in the military, they said.

Julie Schenecker's attorneys make that argument in a response Monday to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Parker Schenecker, an Army colonel who was in the Middle East at the time of the January shootings.

They say the accusation is based partly on emails he sent to family members 11 days before the children — 16-year-old daughter Calyx and 13-year-old son Beau — were killed.

In the email, Parker Schenecker wrote that his wife had "the judgment of a 10-year-old" and had hit him and their children.

Parker Schenecker thanked family members who offered help but dismissed those who had criticized "how I'm handling the current crisis."

"Julie was broken before I met her. … I didn't break her, but have been patiently working behind the scenes to pick up the pieces and pick up the slack when she falters," he wrote.

At another point, he asked relatives to "channel your energy toward helping Julie to help herself. Although I'm still trying, I've been unsuccessful in that respect."

Julie Schenecker had been seeing psychiatrists and taking medication since the early 1990s, said her attorney, Paul Sullivan, and in 2001 was committed to a mental institution for nine months.

He said she had to go to drug rehabilitation for alcohol and pain addiction just before last Christmas and spent the holidays in bed. Parker Schenecker forbade his wife from driving the children because of her addiction problems, Sullivan said.

"We pointed out that it was partially negligence on his part that led to these children being left alone with their mother at a time when the dad, according to his own emails, could clearly tell she was a danger to herself and others," Sullivan said.

A spokeswoman for Parker Schenecker dismissed the accusation.

"While not surprised today at Mrs. Schenecker's response, Mr. Schenecker will continue to hold his ex-wife responsible for her horrific actions and is undeterred in his efforts to forever honor Calyx and Beau's memories," spokeswoman Lisa Eichhorn said in a statement Monday. "… Mr. Schenecker simply seeks justice to be served for his children and that their murderer be held responsible for her actions."

The children's bodies were found Jan. 28 in the Scheneckers' Tampa Palms North home. Each was shot twice. Detectives said Julie Schenecker admitted shooting the children, but she has pleaded not guilty and her criminal defense attorneys plan to use insanity as her defense.

At the time, she was being treated for depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Detectives found numerous prescribed medications in the house. A close friend told them that the medicines were not "meshing."

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Parker Schenecker filed the lawsuit against his wife earlier this year, telling the St. Petersburg Times he did so only after she sought money for her legal defense as part of their divorce.

The Scheneckers were divorced in May, though the distribution of their assets remains an open question.

Sullivan said he had hoped to postpone filing a response in the lawsuit "to keep from riling up all the hard feelings." But he said she has to put up a defense.

He said that on other occasions, Parker Schenecker had enlisted help, including from his mother, when his then-wife was at low points.

"All through his marriage, he's relied on people to help when she's been bad off," he said. "But this time he didn't".


Suburb’s Veneer Cracks: Mother Is Held in Deaths

By Erica Goode - The New York Times

March 10, 2011

TAMPA — The Tampa Palms neighborhood here is the kind of place people move to get away from crime.

Stucco homes with neatly trimmed lawns and spacious lanais nestle inside gated “villages” with names like Lancaster and Oxford Place. Real estate agents point out the proximity of “topnotch” schools, the 18-hole golf course and other upscale amenities that “cater to a perpetually-on-vacation-like lifestyle.”

But in recent weeks, the residents have become all too aware of how deceptive surface appearances can be. On Jan. 28, the police arrived at a two-story house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Tampa Palms to find Julie Schenecker unconscious on the patio, blood on her white bathrobe. Inside were the bodies of her two children, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13.

Ms. Schenecker, 50, the wife of a high-level military intelligence officer, has been charged with the murders. When questioned, police said, she admitted to shooting her children and complained that they were “disrespectful and mouthy and that she was going to deal with it.”

To the police, the physical evidence suggested a chilling sequence of events. Ms. Schenecker appeared to have shot Beau with a .38-caliber handgun the previous afternoon while driving him to soccer practice, one bullet piercing the windshield and two striking his body. She then drove home and parked the van in the garage, where his body was found slumped inside the front passenger seat, the seat belt still buckled. Calyx Schenecker was on the computer in an upstairs bedroom when she was killed. Two bullets hit her, one in the back of the head and one in the face. The bodies of both children were covered with blankets.

Inside the house, the police said they discovered handwritten notes in which Ms. Schenecker, who has pleaded not guilty to the crimes, wrote about killing her children and then killing herself — the three days that she had to wait to receive the gun after buying it, she said in one note, had delayed the “massacre.” But she did not turn the gun on herself, and it was unclear why she was unconscious when found.

Since the killings, neighbors, teachers and others who knew the family have struggled to reconcile the outward trappings of a picture-perfect suburban life — the car pool, the soccer games and track meets, the Christmas card photos of a beaming couple with their two handsome, popular, high-achieving children, the family weekends spent boating or skiing — with an act so dark that, as one neighbor, Matthew Patchan, put it, “there’s no words to describe it. It was stunning, unthinkable.”

Gary Bingham, who coached Calyx in track and field at King High School — “the fastest freshman I ever coached,” he said — knew Ms. Schenecker as an attentive mother who picked her daughter up from practice, attended team suppers and once surprised him with a birthday cake. He barely recognized the woman shown wild-eyed and shaking uncontrollably in a video taken as she was led from the house.

“I’m just looking at this person saying, ‘Who is that?’ ” he said. In the time he worked with Calyx, he said, “the girl never once said anything negative to me.” Now he is kept awake at night by visions of the shootings. “You got to get that stuff out of your mind,” he said.

Daisy Questell, who taught Beau at Liberty Middle School, searches her memory for something she might have missed. But she comes up only with the easygoing boy who teased her about the no-chewing-gum rule, “never missed an assignment or got a bad grade” and never gave any indication of a problem at home. “I never heard anything about it, and you know how kids are, they say anything,” she said.

Yet such extreme violence rarely comes out of the blue, and since the killings, fragments of information have surfaced that hint that the family’s veneer may have covered a more turbulent reality. Ms. Schenecker was involved in a traffic accident in November, her Mercedes rear-ending a trailer being towed by another car. Florida Highway Patrol troopers noted that she showed “signs of drug impairment,” including “dilated pupils” and “mush-mouthed speech.” But she was discharged from the hospital before blood could be drawn, according to the troopers’ report.

Two days later, police detectives were sent to the Schenecker house after Calyx told a counselor that her mother had slapped her in the face. Ms. Schenecker did not dispute that she had hit her daughter, but she said that Calyx had called her “disgusting” and told her, “You’re not my parent.” The detectives concluded that “there is no evidence of a criminal offense in this case."

Others also noticed small things that at the time seemed insignificant, but now make them wonder. Mr. Bingham, the track and field coach, recalled that sometime in the fall, Calyx’s father told him that arrangements would have to be made to pick her up after practice because his wife was undergoing “rehab.” Mr. Bingham did not inquire about the treatment. “It wasn’t my job to ask, as a coach,” he said.

Lisa Pilch, who played Division 1 volleyball with Julie Schenecker at the University of Northern Iowa and kept in touch over the years, noticed at a reunion in 2009 that something seemed different about her college friend. “I just thought that she was a little subdued,” Ms. Pilch said. “I thought her eyes looked a little bit either distant or vacant.”

Forensic researchers who have studied mothers convicted of killing their children said that such women often leave a trail of clues behind them. “In almost every case there’s obvious signs,” said Cheryl L. Meyer, a professor at Wright State University whose research team examined 219 cases of maternal filicide and conducted lengthy interviews with 40 of the mothers.

As disturbing as such crimes are, they represent a robust portion of child homicides in the United States. Dr. Meyer found more than 100 cases a year of children killed by their mothers in the 1990s, a figure she says is probably an underestimate. Other experts, basing their numbers on data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, believe that the number may exceed 200 a year, though precise figures are elusive because the deaths are often misclassified.

Many mothers kill their children through some form of neglect or repeated abuse. But in a quarter of the cases Dr. Meyer studied, the mothers purposefully murdered their children. In a notorious 2001 case, Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub. In 1995, Debora Green, a doctor in Kansas, set fire to her house, killing her 6-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son. When a third child escaped onto the roof, Dr. Green told her to jump but made no effort to catch her.

The victims in most maternal filicides are infants or younger children. But mothers who kill purposefully sometimes kill older children, including teenagers, Dr. Meyer said. Delving into the lives of such women, researchers often find histories of mental illness, broken relationships, social isolation or other stresses that may have helped push them into violence. Many are devoted mothers, who plan to kill themselves and become convinced that their children are better off dead than left in the care of others.

Geoffrey R. McKee, a forensic psychologist in South Carolina and the author of “Why Mothers Kill,” said that in a severely depressed state, it was possible that a mother could misread the normal parent-child battles of adolescence. “The children can be pretty much as they always are, but if Ma has changed, then banter on the part of her children can be interpreted as mouthing off,” said Dr. McKee, who has conducted forensic evaluations in high-profile cases like that of Susan Smith, who was convicted in 1995 of killing her two children.

How much of what researchers have found might apply in Julie Schenecker’s case remains unclear, although John Fitzgibbons, a prominent criminal lawyer in Tampa, said that the public defender representing Ms. Schenecker, Robert Fraser, is widely expected to offer an insanity defense for his client.

Mr. Fraser and the prosecutor, Jay Pruner, an assistant state attorney, have declined to comment on the case. The state has until early April to decide whether to ask for the death penalty. Ms. Schenecker, a former Army linguist, who in court appearances has wept quietly or sat stiffly, eyes closed, spent 20 hours in intensive care after her arrest, and remains in the infirmary of the Hillsborough County jail.

Ms. Schenecker’s husband, Col. Parker Schenecker, an intelligence officer with the United States Central Command who was in the Middle East when his children were killed, has not spoken publicly about the crimes or about his wife, except to say, through a spokeswoman, that he visited her in jail late last month and informed her he was filing for divorce. When he was home, Mr. Bingham said of Colonel Schenecker, “It was all about being at home with the kids.” At a memorial service at the First Baptist Church here, Colonel Schenecker asked those who mourned the children to “please, don’t forget how they lived.”

The students who were closest to Calyx at King High School also prefer to focus on the image of the teenager they knew, a girl with an outsize artistic talent, a quirky fashion sense, a passion for Harry Potter books and an openness to new things that led her to sample strange foods like ostrich burgers and try to persuade her friends to sign up for a marathon in Thailand.

They planted a willow tree for Calyx in the school courtyard. They speak happily about their friend, but say they see no purpose in delving into reasons for an act they cannot comprehend.

“I’m not in a place to make sense of it,” said Jena Young, 16.


Mother accused of shooting her teenage children twice in the head because they were 'mouthy' denies murder

DailyMail.co.uk

February 16, 2011

A mother accused of shooting her teenage son and daughter has pleaded not guilty to their murders.

There was heavy security in the courtroom in Tampa, Florida, as 50-year-old Julie Schenecker made a brief appearance.

She faces the death penalty if convicted of the killings last month of her 13-year-old son Beau and daughter Calyx, 16.

Dressed in a red jail outfit with her hands shackled in front of her, Mrs Schenecker listened as the judge appointed the public defender's office to represent her.

Last week the Hillsborough County grand jury formally charged her with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder.

Mrs Schenecker, whose husband is serving in the U.S. military in Qatar, was found covered in blood on the back porch of her home in Tampa on the day of the shootings.

Her mother had earlier called the police from her Texas home to say she had gone missing after sending an email complaining about the children.

Officers claim Mrs Schenecker allegedly shot her son twice in the head on the way to football practice 'because he talked back'.

She then drove to her home and shot her daughter first in the back of the head, then once in the face, as she was on the computer.

A note found at the home allegedly detailed her plans to kill her children and then herself, saying: 'They talked back and were mouthy' and that she was going to 'take care of it.'

Police claim she wrote a note before the shootings on January 28 in which she described her plan as a 'massacre.'

Authorities say Mrs Schenecker bought a .38-calibre revolver the weekend before the shooting. But she had to wait three days to bring it home -  noting it would 'delay the massacre.'

According to police reports, Schenecker bought the pistol on a Saturday and used it the following Thursday.

Police found the bodies of her children covered with a blanket.

At their funeral in Fort Worth, Texas, their devastated father, U.S. Army Colonel Parker vowed to dedicate the rest of his life to his children.

He  wrote an emotional and moving tribute to his kids in which he describes their 'special qualities and incredible spirits'.

He said: 'My children Calyx and Beau were typical kids who lived exceptional lives. They were bright and happy, admired by all who came in contact with them.

'Like most kids their age, they loved their friends, school and sports - two all-American children in every aspect. However, through growing up in many different parts of the world, they developed many special qualities.'

In the tribute, which he wrote for People magazine, he went on to describe each child individually, revealing that Calyx was friendly and outgoing and had a desire to change the world.

She was also a huge Harry Potter fan. He wrote of her: 'She challenged everyone around her to think about others.

'She worked tirelessly to help her school raise money for the American Cancer Society, and she often spoke of her intense desire to 'do something that would change the world.' It's my goal that Calyx still will.'

Speaking about 13-year-old Beau, he called him 'all boy' with a love of soccer but a passion for his friends.

'He and his buddies were silly, fun loving and friends for life,' he said. 'Beau had an incredible gift of empathy for others, even seeking out new kids and bringing them into his group.

'What I will remember most about Beau is his infectious smile and innate sense of humour.'

Colonel Schenecker also revealed that friends have helped him to establish a memorial fund in their honour so he can support the causes they believed in and help improve the lives of others, something he said was a standard by which his children lived.

'To help cope with my loss and have their incredible spirits live on, I am dedicating the rest of my life to honouring my children,' he said.


Julie Schenecker Released From Hospital; Charged With Killing Kids

By Dean Schabner - ABC News

Jan. 30, 2011

Tampa, Fla., mother accused of murdering her two teenage children because they were "mouthy" is due in court Monday, after being released from a hospital today.

Julie Schenecker, 50, a military officer's wife, was arrested Friday when police, responding to call from a concerned relative, found her covered in blood on the back porch of her home.

The woman allegedly confessed to the officers there that she had shot her 13-year-old son and then her 16-year-old daughter because they were "mouthy."

She was taken to a Tampa hospital late Friday night for what police said was a previously existing medical condition, but was released this morning and taken to the Hillsborough County Jail.

According to police, Schenecker shot her son twice in the head while they were on the way to soccer practice, then drove to the family home in in a gated country club community in north Tampa, where she shot her daughter in the back of the head while the teen was studying at her computer.

"I think we will never understand how or why a mother could take the lives of her children," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. "That was the only reason she provided to our detectives.

"We dont believe that the children knew that the mother meant to harm them."

Schenecker's daughter, Calyx, 16, was found in an upstairs bedroom, and Beau, 13, was found in an SUV in the garage, McElroy said.

Both had been shot with a .38-caliber pistol that police believe had been bought five days earlier, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Investigators believe the teens "never saw it coming," McElroy said.

Schenecker, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, was taken to Tampa General Hospital just before midnight, ABC affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa reported.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's officials said she was treated in the ICU for a previous medical condition, according to WFTS-TV.

Police said they went to Schenecker's home Friday morning after receiving a call from the woman's mother, who called from Texas saying she had been unable to reach her daughter. She told police Schenecker had been depressed and complained about her children, WFTS-TV reported.

After the woman allegedly told them what she had done, McElroy said, officers found a note she had written saying she planned to kill her children and then herself.

The motive she allegedly gave, both in the note and in her interviews with police, was the children "talked back and were mouthy," McElroy said.

"During a post-Miranda interview with detectives, the suspect confessed to killing her two children," police said in a statement. "She described the crimes in detail."

According to WFTS-TV, Schenecker's husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, is stationed at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

CentCom spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Lawhorn told the station that Parker Schenecker, a career Army intelligence officer, had been away for several days.

Police said they had contacted the husband in Qatar Friday and told him his children had been killed.

"Obviously teens are going to say things to their parents, they aren't going to get along sometimes but that? I never saw her once speak wrong to her to either one of her parents," Said Calyx's track coach. "One of the parents was always at a meet you know whether it was a dad or mom, someone was always there".

"They seemed like a nice family," said Charanun Soodjinda, 38, who lives across the cul de sac from the Scheneckers. "I never thought this would happen. How could you do that to your children?"

Schenecker had no criminal record in Florida before the shooting; last November she was cited for careless driving after a car crash in Tampa, according to The Associated Press.


Florida Mom Accused of Killing 'Mouthy' Kids

By Dean Schabner - ABC News

Jan. 29, 2011

Tampa, Fla., mother accused of murdering her two teenage children because they were "mouthy" was hospitalized today, delaying her first scheduled court appearance.

Julie Schenecker, 50, a military officer's wife, was arrested Friday when police, responding to call from a concerned relative, found her covered in blood on the back porch of her home.

The woman allegedly confessed to the officers there that she had shot her 13-year-old son and then her 16-year-old daughter because they were "mouthy."

According to police, Schenecker shot her son in the face while they were on the way to soccer practice, then drove to the family home in in a gated country club community in north Tampa, where she shot her daughter in the back of the head while the teen was studying at her computer.

"I think we will never understand how or why a mother could take the lives of her children," police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. "That was the only reason she provided to our detectives."

Schenecker's daughter, Calyx, 16, was found in an upstairs bedroom, and Beau, 13, was found in an SUV in the garage, McElroy said.

Both had been shot with a .38-caliber pistol that police believe had been bought five days earlier, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Investigators believe the teens "never saw it coming," McElroy said.

Schenecker, who was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, was taken to Tampa General Hospital just before midnight, ABC affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa reported.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's officials said she is being treated in the ICU for a previous medical condition, according to WFTS-TV.

Police said they went to Schenecker's home Friday morning after receiving a call from the woman's mother, who called from Texas saying she had been unable to reach her daughter. She told police Schenecker had been depressed and complained about her children, WFTS-TV reported.

After the woman allegedly told them what she had done, McElroy said, officers found a note she had written saying she planned to kill her children and then herself.

The motive she allegedly gave, both in the note and in her interviews with police, was the children "talked back and were mouthy," McElroy said.

"During a post-Miranda interview with detectives, the suspect confessed to killing her two children," police said in a statement. "She described the crimes in detail."

According to WFTS-TV, Schenecker's husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, is stationed at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

CentCom spokesman Lt. Col. Michael Lawhorn told the station that Parker Schenecker, a career Army intelligence officer, had been away for several days.

Police said they had contacted the husband in Qatar Friday and told him his children had been killed.

"They seemed like a nice family," said Charanun Soodjinda, 38, who lives across the cul de sac from the Scheneckers. "I never thought this would happen. How could you do that to your children?"

 

 

 
 
 
 
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