TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Julie Schenecker claims she initially wanted to testify during her trial after murdering her two children but was convinced not to take the stand by her public defender.
Monday morning the former Tampa mother, who was on medication for mental illness, got her wish.
“I didn’t have anyone come to the witness stand for me at all during my trial,” Schenecker said during a hearing on her motion for a new trial. “Zero.”
It was January 28, 2011, when a Tampa Police welfare check discovered Calyx Schenecker, who was 16, and her little brother Beau, who was 13, shot in the family’s Tampa home. Their mother was found in the lanai near a pool, displaying symptoms of drug use, according to police.
In a 2014 trial, a Hillsborough County jury rejected her plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and sent her to prison for two life sentences for killing her children. The state appeals court upheld the conviction in 2016.
After serving nearly a decade in prison, Schenecker, now 61, filed her own motion for a new trial claiming her public defender was ineffective, setting up Monday’s hearing and two hours of testimony from her.
“I give them a D-minus,” Schenecker said when asked about her defense team.
In her motion, and in court, Schenecker claimed several witnesses she wanted to testify were excluded by her public defender.
Among them, clinicians, her sister, best friend, and mother-in-law, who according to Schenecker, witnessed her sharp mental breakdown about a month before the murders.
“If she could speak of what she saw,” Schenecker said, fighting through tears, “It would help people understand the person and the mood states that I became.”
During the prosecution’s questioning, Shenecker was asked if she realized many of the witnesses she referenced would have potentially hurt her case.
She denied that.
Schenecker also claimed the publicity from her case tainted the Hillsborough County jury pool.
“We already know she’s guilty. What?,” Schenecker said, referencing comments about her case. “I couldn’t have won, I could’ve never won.”
She also implied due to national publicity it would’ve been difficult to find impartial jurors in other jurisdictions.
“I don’t know how far we’d have to go,” she said.
When asked if her public defenders ever discussed the possibility of filing a motion for a change of venue, Schenecker said, “No.”
The judge heard a sharp contrast to her claims from her ex-husband who was serving overseas as an Army Colonel when his children were murdered.
Parker Schenecker’s testimony backed the prosecution’s motive that Schenecker killed the children as part of a grudge over a threat of divorce if she did not get help.
Schenecker recalled an incident when he was at a holiday gathering in the panhandle. He said she asked him to come pick her up, a request that he refused.
“I was for sure there was a grudge held at that time,” he said.
The prosecutor asked about a reference “in her journal about obtaining a gun to kill your children.”
“There’s a reference,” he said.
Schenecker had earlier told the court she bought the gun to kill herself.
The hearing continues Tuesday when the public defender is expected to take the stand for the prosecution.
A decision on the motion is expected in two to three months.