Dramatic opening statements in Schenecker trial

Tampa, FL -- Testimony is underway in the case of a New Tampa woman accused of killing her teenage children.

Prosecutors paint Julie Schenecker, 53, not as a crazy, depressed, suburban soccer mom, but as a calculating killer who meticulously planned the January 2011 murders of her two teenage children.

Aware of her actions she told detectives, "This is the worst thing that I've ever done," prosecutor Stephen Udagawa told the jury.

Prosecutors say Schenecker's own journal talked about planning the massacre of her children, 16-year-old Calyx and 13-year-old Beau. It outlines her buying a gun days before the murders, and her frustration with having to wait for a cooling off period.

They say there are entries discussing fear that her husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, was going to divorce her and that she was losing control of her children, whom she described as "mouthy."

"Beau has become sassy since you left. Copying Calyx's attitude," said Udagawa, paraphrasing from the journal. "It kills me now that he's turned on me. He has to come along with us."

Schenecker's defense team painted a very different picture. They say she was a fragile woman who had been sexually molested at the age of 6 and again at 17. She had been treated for mental illness months at a time and diagnosed as bipolar and depressed. She was a military wife left with overwhelming family responsibility while her husband would leave for long stretches of service.

Defense attorneys clearly planned to shift attention to Col. Schenecker and, "What he describes as an all-American family with a sick member -- and she's the sick member," said defense attorney Jennifer Spradley.

This is a story, Spradley said, of "how a mother and a former soldier lost her battle with a chronic mental illness that took everything from her – including her children."

Her defense team says when police found Julie Schenecker that January morning in 2011 she was unsteady on her feet and that they had to hold her up. They say she asked them for her gun, or to borrow theirs, so she could "finish the job" and take her own life.

Before the trial testimony began, Col. Parker Schenecker spoke briefly, promising it would be the only time he spoke during the trial.

"The focus really is on hearing Calyx and Beau's voices," he said.

The first witness called was Tampa Detective Gregory Noble, who authenticated the photos from the crime scene and began talking about Schenecker's home the morning they found her and her dead children.

"They're inside," she told him.

Other witnesses have included a second officer who arrived at the home that same January morning, as well as the former Medical Examiner Bernard Adams.

Adams described -- sometimes in gory detail -- the bodies as he found them at the murder scene. He stood next to the jury box as a series of crime-scene photos were shown.

During his questioning, Julie Schenecker was often looking down. Occasionally she would wipe her nose, or use a tissue to dab away tears.

The jury also heard from a former neighbor who was responsible for the car-pool that day. He testified that Calyx Schenecker - who was normally quite prompt - never came out to catch a ride that January morning.

Most of the early testimony has centered on the crime scene. Schenecker's defense lawyers have not argued much of what's being said.

Ultimately, they will try to convince jurors that all the terrible images they have seen - all the terrible images they've seen - we're the result of mental illness.

In her final words to jurors in her opening statement Jennifer Spradley made it clear. "We are going to ask you to find Ms. Schenecker not guilty by reason of insanity."


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment