A psychologist says Julie Schenecker could have been psychotic and not necessarily insane when she killed her children.
Tampa, Florida -- Julie Schenecker could be psychotic and still be sane.
That was the testimony from the prosecution's first rebuttal witness in the case of Julie Schenecker, the 53 year-old Tampa woman accused of murdering her two teenagers, daughter Calyx, 16, and son Beau, 13.
Dr. Randy Otto, a USF psychologist with a private forensic psychology practice, testified that in his opinion Schenecker was sane at the time she killed her children January 27, 2011 inside their New Tampa home.
Dr. Otto told the jury a person could have mental illness, be psychotic, and still be sane.
Prosecutors concentrated on Schenecker's ability to discern right from wrong while questioning Dr. Otto - the key component of her insanity defense.
"I've never read a book or journal," said Otto, "that indicated that a woman who kills her children does not necessarily "know she is doing wrong."
Dr. Otto was asked about his interview with Julie Schenecker. He described her as thinking clearly, and often sad when discussing her children. She told him she's "loved them very much". There were times she would also show "tangential" thoughts – or drift off-topic.
But Otto's testimony concentrated on Schenecker's actions, entries in her personal journal, and statements to police which Dr. Otto indicated she knew "she is doing wrong".
Schenecker's journal entries show a plan to kill herself and the children, referring to it a 'massacre' and 'evil.' "I infer wrongfulness based on the word 'evil'," he said.
There was more.
She apologized to her dead children after shooting them, she told investigators.
"When do we apologize? When we do something wrong," said Dr. Otto.
Schenecker had also told police she felt "horrible" and told them killing the children was "the worst thing she'd ever done." She said that her husband "would be upset".
All of those emotions and reactions, said Dr. Otto, indicate a knowledge of wrongfulness.
In addition, Dr. Otto spoke about Schenecker misleading the gun shop clerk about her intentions for using the gun on herself and possibly her children, as another indication of knowing right from wrong. That was an important point cited by the prosecution's second rebuttal witness, Dr. Donald Taylor, a forensic psychiatrist.
Dr. Taylor agreed with many of Dr. Otto's conclusion, including Schenecker's sanity at the time of the shootings. The fact that Julie Schenecker lied in order to obtain the gun, he said, spoke volumes.
"In my opinion, that indicates the fact that she felt she needed to give a false reason for purchasing the gun. Indicates that had she given the actual reason, the gun would not have been sold to her," said Dr. Taylor.
The prosecution's third rebuttal witness of the day was Dr. Barbara Stein. Stein, also a forensic psychiatrist, suggested Julie Schenecker's motives and responses were actually quite sane, suggesting a motive. She was angry at her daughter and husband, said Dr. Stein. She felt disrespected and abandoned, "severely mistreated."
The final email written to Parker Schenecker saying "We're waiting for you" was "hostile" said Dr. Stein. In her journal, Julie Schenecker had written the "evil" begins Thursday, and by using the term "evil", knew something bad, something wrong was going to happen.
"Which it did," said Dr, Stein.