Parker Schenecker on the stand for his ex-wife's double murder trial on Tuesday, May 13, 2014
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -
Julie Schenecker announced she will not testify in her own defense for her double-murder trial. She told the judge she made the decision freely understanding her Fifth Amendment rights.
The defense rested their case Tuesday. Court resumes Wednesday morning with the state's rebuttal.
Julie Schenecker's ex-husband spent Tuesday morning on the stand testifying for the defense.
Schenecker, 53, is on trial in Hillsborough County for the murders of her two children, 16-year-old Calyx and 13-year-old Beau, in January 2011.
Gut-wrenching emails read during Parker Schenecker's testimony revealed the children did not feel safe around their mother in the months leading up to their deaths, especially while she was driving them in carpool.
"I MUST protect them; they are telling me that they feel unsafe - this is the basic responsibility of a parent, especially a father," Parker Schenecker wrote in an email to Julie Schenecker. "There is no way in the world that I can just let this go; they've asked their father for protection (the hard part of this is that they've asked for protection from their mother)." The email was sent prior to Parker's deployment to the Middle East on Jan. 19, 2011.
Julie Schenecker emailed her husband at 7:33 p.m. on January 27, 2011, after the children were likely dead, saying "Get home soon-we're waiting for you!" Parker said she had never responded like that before.
The emails also included Parker's request that Julie sign a release allowing him access to her medical records from a psychiatrist; a request Julie Schenecker denied him.
Julie Schenecker paid close attention to Tuesday's testimony; fixed on her ex-husband as he discussed their family. Her demeanor seemed more attentive; at one point she even offered a wink to someone sitting in the courtroom.
The defense called their third doctor to the stand, Dr. Wade Myers, who testified Schenecker was insane at the time of the crime Tuesday afternoon, not knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Myers testified Schenecker's mental illness became progressively worse as the years went on. Like other doctors to testify, he had diagnosed her with bipolar disorder with psychotic features including delusions, manic behavior, thought disorders, paranoia and schizophrenic thinking.
"I can't recall the last time I've seen a patient on that many mood stabilizers and an anti-psychotic to control themselves," Myers said.
He testified Schenecker was thinking about suicide on a daily basis but would never go through with it because she "didn't want to hurt the children." He believes the thought of killing her children didn't dawn on her until after she purchased the firearm.
"I don't think prior to that she would have been able to hurt them," Myers said. "She didn’t want to commit suicide because she didn’t want to hurt them. She always talked about how much she loved her kids."
The psychiatrist said Schenecker had delusional beliefs that killing her children was in their best interest.
"It would solve the pain and misery of life," the doctor explained as Schenecker's thoughts. "It was God's will. She was doing what she felt in her heart was morally justified.
"She was a great mother when she was well," he said. "She’s been anything but irresponsible in her life, until her mental illness hit." He referenced on cross-examination that her bad behavior didn't hit until she was almost 50.
Defense Attorney Jennifer Spradley started the day with Parker Schenecker's testimony about the history of his relationship with Julie. The couple met in the Army while stationed in Germany. Parker stated he first started seeing her depression after they finally lived together when married and described it as a "drum beat" throughout their relationship. "It was expected at the scene," he said. The couple was married for over 20 years.
Parker described Julie as a good first-time mother after Calyx was born in Germany in 1994. The family moved frequently, as military families do, around the U.S. and back to Germany a couple times.
When they arrived in Tampa in 2007, Parker said Julie's relationship with their daughter started deteriorating when Calyx entered high school. At one point Julie slapped her daughter and boarding school became an option "to find a way for peace between Calyx and Julie."
Julie Schenecker was in a car accident on her way to an AA meeting after she had been drinking in Nov. 2010. Parker took his wife to a hotel and told her she wasn't going to live at the house anymore and would go to rehab.
After a few weeks, Julie left rehab. She did not assimilate well back into the family and was "pretty much holed up in the bedroom most of the day," Parker explained. He said Julie had "extreme anger" toward him when he made her stay in rehab a few extra days.
After rehab, Julie began talking about suicide. In emails to her doctor, Parker wrote, "She mentioned [suicide] but wasn’t planning to act on it. My hope was her energy was too low."
Parker testified he did not intend to divorce his wife at that time; a fear that Julie Schenecker believed was being talked about in emails from Parker to family members.
The Jan. 15th email sparked because Julie's family was concerned how Parker was handling her issues with Calyx. "Have any of you ever lived with a 50-year-old who has the judgment of a 10-year-old?" he wrote to them.
Calyx and Beau were found dead at the family's New Tampa home on January 28, 2011.
Julie Schenecker has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.