TAMPA — Her children were worried about her behavior. Her husband was afraid to leave the children alone with her. And, just before she was accused of doing the unthinkable, Julie Schenecker admitted she was “so sick mentally.’’
The details about life in the Schenecker family before she was accused of killing her two teenage children in 2011 come out in 55 pages of emails released by Hillsborough County prosecutors on Monday. The correspondence includes notes to and from her, her husband and concerned relatives.
They emails offer a chilling portrait of a woman who was losing her grip on rationality and show the rising concern from those around her about her well being and the safety of the children. Detailed are the fears of her teenage children about their mother’s instability around the house and her erratic driving, and her own frustration with two children who she says were growing more and more disrespectful.
Included is an email from her husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, in which he says he’s worried about whether the children, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13, are safe with their mother.
Parker Schenecker was stationed in Qatar at the time of the killings. Two months before then, he wrote a long email to a psychiatrist who was treating his wife. Schenecker said he was concerned about the relationship between his wife and daughter and said the two constantly were at odds.
“Julie can no longer control Calyx and Calyx has been disrespectful and verbally abusive toward Julie,” Parker Schenecker wrote the psychiatrist. He also noticed his wife had been drinking more and more. “Drinking starts to affect the kids — they start mentioning it to me.”
Schenecker wrote that he felt his children weren’t safe. They had told him Julie Schenecker had been driving erratically and even had a wreck, though no one was injured.
“I told Julie I wanted her to check into a hotel for the evening,” Parker wrote to the therapist, “that I can’t have both her and Calyx in the house after that, It would just be too much.
“I told her,” Schenecker wrote, “that I don’t feel safe with her around the kids.”
He said that once in November 2010, his wife struck Calyx in the face while she was driving and the teen mentioned the incident to a school counselor. Police and child protection services social workers showed up at the house the next day, but determined Calyx was not in danger.
Julie Schenecker is scheduled to stand trial at the end of April on two counts of first-degree murder in the slaying of her two children in their New Tampa home. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if she is convicted. Defense attorneys have indicated they will rely on an insanity defense.
The emails released Monday span the time between October 2010 and early 2011, with the last one written by Julie Schenecker sent on the night before the slayings, addressed to her family. She thanked them for their support in a note sent just before 9 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2011.
Some of the note makes no sense and the missive is full of grammatical and spelling errors.
“It’s really difficult and I’m so sick mentally,” the email said. “I minimally take care of the kids ... sad to say.
“Beaus has also developed Calyx’s attitude — makes me cry evening ... seeing what they’ve become. As far as 180 from their former daring selves.
“I will end this soon, though,” she wrote. “I am at my wits end.”
Authorities said Julie Schenecker the next day shot Calyx because she was “mouthy” and Beau because he sassed her after soccer practice.
Just before she sent the email to her family, she sent a short one to her husband.
“Get home soon,” the note said. “We’re waiting for you.”
Parker Schenecker, an intelligence officer assigned to U.S. Central Command, ended their 20-year marriage in May.
In the early 1990s, Julie Schenecker was diagnosed with depression and treated with medication, according to court documents. From 1997 to 2001, she was medicated daily except for when she was pregnant and nursing, her attorneys said.
In 2001, she suffered a debilitating bout of depression and was hospitalized for nine months, documents state. During that time, her attorneys said, Parker Schenecker hired a nanny to assist with his children and sought help from his mother.
That same year, Julie Schenecker was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder and severe depression, the documents state. She later was diagnosed with personality disorder.
The emails released Monday are part of the discovery portion of the trial, which is a term for the evidence collected by the prosecution and turned over to the defense. In most cases, the discovery is made public when it is turned over, but in this case, Circuit Judge Emmett Battles reviewed the discovery and ordered the release of evidence he deems appropriate for public consumption. That procedure was implemented after a defense motion was filed early on in the court case to limit the release of evidence.
Some of the emails have redacted names and passages.
One was written by Parker Schenecker on Jan. 15, 2011, though the name of the recipient was blacked out.
It urges those who were critical of his handling of his wife’s depression and mental illness to step back. He said he has endured 20 years of dealing with those issues.
“I didn’t break her,” he wrote, “but have been patiently working behind the scenes to pick up the pieces and pick up the slack when she falters.”
Julie Schenecker’s family was well aware of her mental illness, and several emails were passed back and forth between them and her and her husband.
One, written by Dave Powers, Julie Schenecker’s older brother, told her the family was concerned about her and the marriage.
“Your husband loves and cares for you deeply,” Powers wrote. “He’s been there through thick and thin. For a long time, too, I might add.”
On the morning of the homicides, Parker Schenecker got an email from someone whose name has been redacted.
Under a subject line that says, “Love you all” is this:
“Have tried to call Julie on both home and cell,” the note said, “also Beau and sent Beau a text to call me right now.
“Very concerned about Julie.”