Schenecker documents detail family problems, depression, substance abuse
TAMPA - The smiling portraits in the living room gave no clue that Julie Schenecker and her family were falling apart. Classmates and teachers never knew that Schenecker was undergoing treatment for prescription drug addiction and frequently argued with her daughter. Those details surfaced today when state prosecutors released 167 pages of documents and 610 photographs in the case of Schenecker, accused of fatally shooting her son Beau, 13 and daughter, Calyx, 16. Schenecker, 50, has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail.The bodies were found Jan. 28 at the family's New Tampa home after a relative, worried about the children and fearing Schenecker was suicidal, called police, court records show. Investigators say Schenecker killed Calyx because she was "mouthy" and Beau because he talked backed to her after soccer practice. The discovery documents released by the State Attorney's Office reveal the grisly details of the crime scene, sheds light on Schenecker's health problems and shows a seemingly All-American family dealing with issues that unexpectedly ended in bloodshed. From the outside, the Schenecker residence at 13605 Royal Palm Drive appeared to be a typical upper middle class home. Detectives noted school textbooks on a table, clean laundry folded in a basket and fresh fruit in the kitchen, documents show. It was late January, but holiday decorations had not been taken down. There was a fully-decorated Christmas tree with unwrapped presents in the living room and Santa Claus hats placed on every step of a staircase, the documents state. But as detectives went farther into the house and the second floor, the portrait of normal suburbia unraveled. In the master bedroom, investigators noted Julie Schenecker's bed was unmade and empty pill bottles of oxycodone, hydrocodone, lithium, amoxicillin and others were scattered around the room. Several of the medications were for pain. Some were anti-psychotics, blood thinners or mood stabilizers. A .38-caliber revolver with a laser scope, five bullets in a Smith & Wesson box and an instruction manual for the gun were also found in the room. In the master bathroom, police found 15 live bullets and five spent shell casings next to a hair dryer and bottles of perfume. More shocking discoveries awaited detectives in the next room. An office chair belonging to Calyx and an area around it was stained with blood. Detectives say the girl was shot while sitting in the chair then wheeled into another room and placed on the bed. Her brother's body was found in a Honda minivan in the garage, covered in a white blanket. His seatbelt was still fastened. Like his sister, Beau was shot twice in the head. A receipt for the $599 revolver, pamphlets for a drug treatment counseling group, and empty bottles of beer and liquor were among the 610 photographs released by prosecutors. Other photos were redacted, including the rooms where Calyx and Beau were found. Investigators also obtained a surveillance video of Schenecker buying the .38-caliber revolver at a local gun shop. The owners of the store told police that Schenecker appeared to be "perfectly fine and showed no outward signs of being either emotionally or physically disturbed." Schenecker looked like she knew how to handle the gun and told the owners she had spent five years as an intelligence officer in the military, police said. Detectives also recovered a notebook, a calendar with notes on certain dates and yellow post-it notes throughout the house, but prosecutors redacted what was written on most of the materials. A photograph of one sticky note, placed on a plate of leftover chicken, read, "Calyx wouldn't eat the French chicken. Was going to make something else?!?" Calyx complained that Julie was a lousy cook. Everything Calyx wanted to eat "had to be green," the documents say. Mother and daughter argued frequently, family friend Lisa Prisco told police. She described the two as "at war." Calyx had stopped speaking to her mother and wouldn't eat with her, taking her meals to her room, Prisco said. Calyx would yell, "You're not my mother." The first signs of family discord appeared in November, when Schenecker slapped Calyx during an argument, according to a Tampa police report. Calyx told an officer that about a month before that incident, her mother hit her on the mouth in the car, causing her mouth to bleed. That incident had not been reported to police. Three days before Christmas, Schenecker told investigators with the state Department of Children & Families that there had been no more physical altercations between her and Calyx and that the two had "agreed to disagree," records show. In the following weeks, the child protection investigator, Calyx's therapist and her high school counselor thought the children were safe. DCF closed its case on Jan. 18. The documents give no indication that there was any ongoing tension between Beau and his mother. The King High School sophomore was applying to boarding schools because she no longer wanted to live at home, Prisco said. Detectives found applications to two boarding schools that Calyx partially filled out. Prisco said Calyx's father, then a colonel in the Army, tried to complete his portion of the applications before he was deployed overseas, but the forms were left on the kitchen counter. Schenecker, an intelligence officer who was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base, was deployed to the Middle East on Jan. 18 and was expected to return Jan. 30, two days after the killings. Schenecker tried to do what he could, but the disputes between mother and daughter were "too much on him," Prisco said. Parker Schenecker said his wife had battled depression for a decade and had checked herself into rehab centers several times for substance and alcohol abuse. He said he knew of his wife's problems but thought it was safe to leave because he didn't believe she would harm the children. A few weeks before the slayings, Julie Schenecker had been released from a drug rehabilitation program in Safety Harbor, Prisco said. The entire family was in counseling. Prisco said a military doctor was treating Julie for manic depression and diagnosed her as bipolar. The 12 different medications Schenecker was taking weren't meshing, Prisco said. Schenecker also suffered from tardive dyskinesia, a disease that caused her legs to jerk and her arms to twitch, Prisco said. The condition appears after long-term use or high dosages of anti-psychotic drugs. News reports showed Schenecker shaking convulsively when she was arrested. Within hours of the search, Schenecker was arrested on two counts of first-degree murder. Detectives had found her unconscious on the back porch, wearing pajamas and a bathrobe, records show. Officers said they could smell alcohol on her breath and she was having problems standing up. There was dried blood and a fine, black powder on her face, police said. She also had blood on her hands and clothes. Detectives asked where the children were and Schenecker pointed to the inside of the house, giving them permission to enter. Once the bodies were found, they placed handcuffs on her, sat her on the couch and asked questions. She asked for a glass of orange juice. Police obliged. Investigators seized a spiral notebook, saying its contents detailed how she planned to carry out the shooting. A suicide note was also recovered. Parker Schenecker released a statement today regarding the discovery documents, saying it is "another step in the judicial process." The documents have "highlighted the substantial burden and responsibility that comes with access to details of my children's murders," Schenecker said. "My family, friends and I, along with the thousands who have mourned Calyx and Beau with us will continue to honor my beautiful children, remembering them with dignity and respect." He was granted a divorce on May 19 at a brief hearing after the attorneys for the Scheneckers said that was what their clients wanted. Schenecker has also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against his former wife, a move legal experts say could be a way to recoup assets he might lose in the divorce.
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