Day 8: Jury deliberations begin in Schenecker's Tampa murder tri - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Day 8: Jury deliberations begin in Schenecker's Tampa murder trial

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Beau and Calyx Schenecker Beau and Calyx Schenecker
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

The fate of Julie Schenecker is now in the hands of the jury.

Closing arguments happened Thursday in Hillsborough County Court for the double-murder trial. A "tale of two mothers" was described for the Tampa woman accused of killing her two children in January 2011. The jury started their deliberations at 4:45 p.m.

The state spent the first part of their closing argument taking the jury through the chronological events of the killings.

Prosecutor Jay Pruner described Schenecker's "long-standing plan to kill her children, a plan that she took "deliberate and extensive steps" to execute. Pruner suggested her motive was anger and resentment toward her husband, saying she intended him to come home and find his family dead.

"She did this, in part, to have Parker Schenecker as an emotional target," he said. "He was safer in the Middle East then in the bed next to her."

They painted a picture of a woman desperate and determined to kill her children, and read journal entries Julie Schenecker wrote in the days leading up to, and after the crime was committed. According to Pruner, the entries show rational thought processes.

"I offed Beau on the way to practice," one entry reads. "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."

The state wrapped up their closing arguments by saying: "Today, this defendant still has the blood of Beau and Calyx Schenecker on her hands the same she did on January 27, 2011."

Pruner points out in the State of Florida all persons are presumed to be sane. He says the state has proved beyond reasonable doubt she committed first-degree murder. The jury must focus on the state of Schenecker's mind at the time of the offenses.

In dramatic closings by the defense, they said Schenecker's illness - an illness that she didn't choose - got her to commit the crime. They described a mom trying to make things better for herself because her family mattered most to her.

"She’s trying to fix things with a broken mind," defense attorney Jennifer Spradley said. "The psychosis was a ticking time bomb."

Spradley said the reason Schenecker never committed suicide was because she didn't want to hurt her children. Yet a psychotic plan to kill all three of them together developed.

"It doesn’t make sense that someone who doesn’t discipline her children would shoot them in the mouth for being mouthy."

"It’s the three of them against the world, just like when they moved over and over. It’s the three of them," Spradley explained, often pointing out that Parker Schenecker was not around. Spradley mentioned Parker's decision to go to the Rose Bowl even though he knew his wife may kill herself.

Defense said her journal and the confession to detectives are riddled with psychotic thoughts.

"Her plan was to save them, to be together in Heaven, it’s not about anger," Spradley told the jury. "She has history of being good mother and person trying to get better until everything fell apart. This is biological disaster. Her brain is working against her."

"When you look at evidence and take everything into consideration, she's not guilty by reason of insanity because she didn’t understand what she was doing was wrong, she believed it was right."

Following closing arguments, the 12-person jury will get instructions on the law, and will be sent to deliberate.

The state wrapped up their rebuttal case Wednesday with three expert witnesses on the stand testifying Schenecker was sane, by the legal definition, at the time of the murders. Thus, she knew what she was doing, and the consequences of her actions, when she fatally shot her daughter, 16-year-old Calyx and son, 13-year-old Beau, in the head.

Defense expert witnesses testified just the opposite of state witnesses. Multiple psychiatrists told jury Schenecker was legally insane when she killed her children, saying she was so psychotic she didn't know the wrongfulness of her actions. They believe Julie Schenecker killed her kids in order to save them from the misery of real life. 

Dozens of witnesses testified throughout the eight-day trial including mental health experts, law enforcement, and the defendant's ex-husband Parker, who sat in the courtroom the entirety of the trial.

The children were found dead at the family's New Tampa home on January 28, 2011. 

Schenecker has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.  If found not guilty, the judge will then decide if she should be committed to a mental health facility.

The legal definition of insanity in Florida is the defendant must have a mental illness, and didn't know what she was doing or the consequences of what she was doing OR if she knew what she was doing, she didn't know it was wrong.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.



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