TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Florida jurors on Thursday rejected the insanity plea of a former military linguist and longtime Army officer’s wife, convicting the 53-year-old of first-degree murder for shooting and killing her 13-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter more than three years ago while her husband was deployed.
Julie Schenecker, dressed in a gray suit with a button-down pink shirt, wiped her nose and eyes, then the bailiffs handcuffed her as the verdict was read after just more than an hour of deliberations. She started to cry. She was sentenced soon after to two life terms, fingerprinted and led away to prison.
Schenecker told the judge she takes responsibility for what she’s done.
Through tears she said, “I know I shot my son and daughter. I don’t know why. But I have time to try to understand that.”
Prosecutors said that few days after buying a handgun, on the way to soccer practice in the family minivan, she shot Beau twice - once in the side of the head and once in his mouth. She turned around, drove home and parked in the garage. Schenecker approached Calyx from behind and shot her once in the head and once in the mouth.
Schenecker wrote about the shootings in her journals, saying that she shot both teens in “their mouthy mouths.”
If she had been acquitted by reason of insanity, she would be committed to a mental hospital until doctors and a judge agree that she is no longer a danger to herself or others.
She also said before sentencing that she believed in the U.S. judicial system and would accept her sentence. Judge Emmett Battles ordered that her life sentences be served at the same time, not consecutively, and there is no possibility of parole. The defense made no immediate mention of an appeal.
Earlier, prosecutors said Schenecker wrote in her journal that she wanted to kill herself and wanted to be cremated with her children, their ashes mixed together. She mentioned that she was going to try to move her son’s body into her bed and wanted to die next to him.
“Beau and I are going to heaven,” she wrote. “Wish heaven for Calyx too.”
Before she was sentenced, she also talked about her children.
“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 that heaven has to offer…Jesus is protecting them and keeping them safe until we get there.”
Parker Schenecker and his mother, who sat side-by-side for much of the trial, looked sad and exhausted as the verdict was read. Julie Schenecker’s sister cried softly. Parker Schenecker, who testified that his wife’s mental illness was a constant “drum beat” in their 20-year marriage, read a brief statement after court.
“It’s been a trying time for all of us,” the 51-year-old career officer said. “Today’s decision for many reasons gives my family a great relief.”