- Julie Schenecker found guilty of double murder
- Florida mother killed her 13-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter
- Children’s father welcomes verdict, saying it will allow family to move on
- Court heard Schenecker detailed how she shot the teenagers in a journal
A Florida mother has been found guilty after a jury ruled she was sane when she shot dead her two teenage children.
After a day of closing arguments on Thursday, the jury returned their verdict on Julie Schenecker, a military wife who killed her 13-year-old son Beau and 16-year-old daughter Calyx in Tampa in 2011.
Schenecker, 53, was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder after prosecutors argued that she was sane at the time of the shootings.
Guilty: Julie Schenecker, right, listens to the closing arguments as the trial into the double murder of her children comes to a close on Thursday
Before sentencing her to life in prison, without parole, the judge said: ‘[It's] almost too much to comprehend what brings us here.’
Schenecker and her family cried as the guilty verdict was read out. The prosecution had earlier claimed the murders had been planned because of anger at her family, and because her children were becoming ‘mouthy’.
The children’s father, Parker Schenecker, said: ‘Today’s decision, for many reasons, gives my family a great sense of relief.
‘While this decision doesn’t bring my children back, it does give my family an opportunity to move forward.’
His wife, who has suffered years of mental illness, had detailed the killings in a journal, which was found at the murder scene.
Closure: Parker Schenecker, pictured in court on Tuesday, said the verdict won’t bring his children back but it will help the family move on
Victims: Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13, were shot dead by their mother in Tampa in 2011
In her journal, one entry read: ‘I offed Beau on the way to practice. I accidentally shot the window then shot him. One in the side of the head and one in his mouth because he became so mouthy just like Calyx.’
Another entry, about her daughter, read: ‘[I] walked up without [Calyx] reacting, and shot her in the right temple. Then shot her in the mouth, her sassy little mouth.’
Both sides had presented several mental health experts as witnesses during their trial, as the defense argued that Schenecker had been legally insane.
In Florida, the defense would have needed to prove Schenecker had involuntarily committed the murders because of mental illness for her to have been declared legally insane.
Trial: Parker Schenecker examines evidence at the trial of his wife. Prosecutors claimed Juilie Schenecker killed their children in anger at him
They would also have needed to prove that she did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the killings.
In his closing arguments, prosecutor Jay Pruner said Schenecker had a ‘long standing plan to kill her children,’ WFLA reported.
He claimed that she had planned for her husband, Patrick, to return home and find his whole family dead.
She had planned to kill herself after murdering her children, but passed out through a combination of pills and alcohol before she was able to.
Plea: Schenecker, pictured being led into the courtroom on Thursday, had tried to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, but a jury found she was sane at the time of the killings
Pruner suggested her motive was anger and resentment toward her husband, saying she intended him to come home and find his family dead.
Schenecker, who had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity at the start of the trial, faces a life sentence after the possibility of a death penalty was ruled out.
As she was sentenced to life in prison with no parole, Schenecker addressed the court, saying: ‘I shot my son and daughter, I don’t know why,’ Fox 13 reported.
She apologized for the killing and, through tears, said: ‘I know my children are I heaven. I want people to try to find comfort and meaning, as I do, that they are in no pain.’
What Julie Schenecker said to the court after sentencing
‘I’m prepared and accept your sentence.
‘I apologize, I apologize to everyone in this courtroom who I have broken, the lives I have destroyed. I hope they can collect themselves as best as possible. All of us. Not just this courtroom – anybody who knew our family, Calyx and Beau, our children’s friends, teachers, coaches, our relatives, aunts, cousins, grandparents, uncles, nieces, nephews, everyone has been so deeply affected and I understand that there are people affected by this that maybe just read about in the paper, maybe a child looked at their mommy and said, “Mommy are you ever going to shoot me?” I know that this could happen, and I apologize for what happened, what I did. I take responsibility. I was there.
‘I know I shot my son and daughter. I don’t know why. But I have a period of time to try to understand that.
‘Your honor, the judicial system in the U.S. is the best in the world. We don’t lash our women 125 times for driving when they’re not supposed to drive. I’m proud to stand here in front of you, as I understand you might be prior service as well. And to serve my country, and I proudly said the first code conduct as a soldier, in 83, I said – I said, I’m an American fighting man [sic], serving in the forces which protect our country and our way and our way of life, an I’m prepared to give my life in their defense. I said that proudly, it changed, we’re no longer by men, we’re fighting in the forces which protect our country.
‘It’s our trust and I believe in you and what you’ve done. You’ve run a great court. I have no experience, from what I’ve seen, you control the court tremendously well. I thank my attorneys who supported me, and I trusted them and they worked so well. And all those people behind me on my team, put in many, many hours on this case. I will never be able to repay all these people, I have no way to repay, but to say thank you. So thank you to the entire American judicial system. I am not playing you’re honor, and that is heartfelt.
‘I have one more… I know our children are in Heaven. I want people to try to find comfort and meaning as I do that they are in no pain. And they are alive and enjoying everything and anything Heaven has to offer, Jesus protecting them and keeping them safe until we get there, and their loved ones follow us to join them. That’s all your honor, I appreciate you letting me.