In 2011, military mom Julie Powers Schenecker was arrested in the killings of her two teenage children, 16-year-old Calyx and 13-year-old Beau. At the time, media reports said it was because Julie thought her kids were "mouthy." But the truth, as it usually is, was much more complex. Julie had reportedly long suffered from mental illness and additionally had been sexually abused as a child. Her defense team is claiming she is not guilty by reason of insanity. While a history of mental illness doesn't excuse anything, it certainly paints a more multilayered picture than what originally was said.
At the time of the murders, Julie's husband, Parker, was serving overseas in the U.S. Army. He was stuck in the terrible position of being stationed in Qatar while feeling his children might be unsafe with their mother and trying to help the situation from there. He has since divorced Julie.
Julie is now standing trial and lawyers have read some chilling excerpts from her diary. Apparently Julie thought that her children may have inherited her bipolar disorder and that, by murdering them, she was saving them from depression and mental illness. She reportedly wrote:
If you're wondering why I decided to take out the kids, it's to protect them. Kids of suicidal parents tend to commit suicide themselves. Calyx has talked about suicide since she was 12. I believed I've saved them from the pain. I wish this on nobody.
She also reportedly wrote about planning to commit suicide by shooting herself, taking pills, or with carbon monoxide. Of course, what happened was she didn't take her life -- but that of her children. She shot them both -- her son while he sat in the car being driven back from soccer practice; her daughter while she sat at her computer doing her homework.
Writing in her journal after killing her children is not going to give Julie Schenecker a defense. You can write anything in your journal after you kill someone. Julie did have a long documented history of mental illness -- at one point even spending nine months in a hospital -- and prosecutors decided that they wouldn't seek the death penalty because of this history.
But Schenecker had no right to decide that her children would not have lives even if she was sincerely worried about their mental health (by all accounts, the children were normal, albeit increasingly rebellious, teens). Mothers who kill their children often believe (as Andrea Yates did too) that they are "saving" their children. Of course, they are not.
Now it's up to a jury to decide if Schenecker understood right from wrong when she killed two people she brought into this world and who trusted her to protect and love them.
Another part of Julie's diary may reveal a different reason she killed her kids. She wrote to her husband that she sensed divorce was "inevitable" and that she "couldn't live alone."
That sounds less like concern for her children and more like concern for herself.
What do you think of her "explanation"?
Image via Hillsborough County Jail