Julie Schenecker, the Florida mom who confessed to killing her two teenagers, 13-year-old Beau and 16-year-old Calyx, for being “mouthy,” appeared in court today, apparently showing emotion for the first time since the murders. According to ABC News, Schenecker addressed Judge Walter Heinrich from Hillsborough County Jail via closed-circuit cameras. Reports say she was “holding a tissue and crying softly.”
Most media accounts have mentioned that neighbors and friends of the Schenecker family seemed to think they were “normal” and “happy,” but things may have been slowly unraveling in the home for some time. ABC News notes, “Police visited the Schenecker home Nov. 6, 2010, to investigate an allegation of child abuse made by Calyx.” Schenecker hit her daughter “with an open hand on her face for approximately 30 seconds” because “Calyx stopped at a grocery store and wouldn’t show her mom what she had purchased.” Back in October, Schenecker hit Calyx so hard her mouth was bleeding.
Two days after officials visited the Schenecker home to investigate Calyx’s claims, Schenecker was involved in a car accident and found to be under the influence of drugs. Schenecker “was not drunk or on drugs at the time of her arrest” Friday, however, though her mother had been worried about the depression Schenecker had been feeling. Schenecker’s husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, will not be supporting his wife through her trial, according to an Army spokesperson. ABC reports, “Judge Heinrich said the court will request the appointment of doctors for a mental evaluation of Schenecker,” but experts believe “it will be difficult for Schenecker to use an insanity defense.”
This story is unspeakably sad, and I understand why Schenecker will likely not be able to claim insanity as a defense in her trial, but there is no way this woman was in her right mind when she shot her children. Clearly we don’t have all the details here, but this story sounds to me like a woman who was battling depression and cracked under the pressure of trying to live the “perfect” life it seems so many in her gated community thought she had. An absolute tragedy to be sure, and hopefully one we can learn from. We will continue to follow this story as it unfolds.