Julie Schenecker's trial on charges she killed her two teenage children in 2011 took a week of jury selection and nearly two weeks of testimony. The evidence against her was so compelling, though, the jury needed less than 40 minutes to find her guilty, the jury foreman said Friday.
Schenecker was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder for the slayings of her daughter, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13, and immediately sentenced to life in prison. Defense attorneys argued that she was innocent by reason of insanity, but the jury wasn't buying that, said Charles Madison, the foreman of the 12-member panel that listened to testimony and viewed evidence over the past two weeks in a Hillsborough County circuit courtroom.
“She drove 27 miles to buy that gun, and when she was asked what she planned to do with gun, she lied, saying it was for protection because of some break-ins in her neighborhood,” Madison said.
The state, he said, “showed she lied. She knew what she doing. She orchestrated this thing six months before it happened.”
Parker Schenecker, Julie Schenecker's ex-husband, on Friday lauded the jury for its decision to convict.
“The jury came to that conclusion, and the jury's assessment is really the only one that matters in all this,'' he said. Asked if he agreed with the decision, he said, “I listened to the evidence and I would have come to the same conclusion that the jury did.''
Madison said only one member of the jury wasn't convinced from the beginning of deliberations that Schenecker should be found guilty.
“And it looked like the one dissenter was looking for a fight,'' said the 67-year-old retiree from Valrico. “He has that right. We asked him if he would like to share with us why he thought that way. He said the experts didn't really know what was in her mind at the time.”
It didn't take long for the other jurors to convince him. They argued that the testimony of state psychiatric experts was too convincing to ignore, Madison said. “We went back and forth.”
The back and forth lasted 35 or 40 minutes, he said, and ended with the dissenter being convinced the state's experts “are trained to do that.”
The verdict was delivered in open court nearly three hours after the jury went into deliberations, but the last two and a half hours, Madison said, were spent waiting for the judge to assemble everyone in the courtroom.
He said the state expert witnesses were convincing.
“They spoke with conviction,” Madison said. “They knew what they were talking about.”
He said a defense argument that a mother has to be insane to kill her children was rebutted by a state witness that said such slayings occur about 3,000 times a year without insanity being an issue. And this was one of those times, Madison said.
It is true that Schenecker suffers from a bi-polar disorder, he said, “but that is not a condition of insanity. I think she's mentally ill. But that doesn't make her insane.”
Her apology to the court and to everyone affected by the murders after the verdict was rendered proves the jury made the right call, Madison said.
He has no second thoughts about the verdict.
“If she had walked out of there not guilty, then I could not have lived with that,” he said. “The verdict we delivered, I can live with that.
“I'm not upset about it. I feel good. She's guilty. Like my wife said, 'She's still got to answer to somebody higher than you or me.' ”
Parker Schenecker was in the Middle East when his then-wife killed their children. He talked Friday about what it was like to sit through the nearly three weeks of sometimes graphic testimony and his continued focus on the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund, which provides funding for the arts, athletics and other causes for youth.
The fund, and those causes, he said, are “not just their legacy. That's Calyx and Beau from birth. It's all about positive, it's all about love, and it's all about taking responsibility for your actions, and paying it forward. Calyx and Beau lived 16 and 13 years, respectively. But they were much older souls and have had a much larger impact than just 16 and 13 years in this world.''
He said he knows some people were surprised that he appeared stoic and unemotional while in the same room as his ex-wife as the gruesome details of the slaying were laid out for jurors. During his testimony, he often referred to Julie Schenecker as “the defendant.''
“The last three weeks was about Julie and it was her trial and it was the state of Florida's trial,'' he said. “My responsibility was to be there to give voice to Calyx and Beau. The best way I could do that was to not make the trial about me or not make the trial about my family or about Calyx and Beau. It was about Julie. And anything else would have been disrespectful.''
He said he knows that Julie Schenecker had grown to resent him and that, in her mind, killing the children was also an attack on him.
“I think there was resentment from her towards a lot of situations and circumstances,'' he said. “She was at a point in her life where there were some things that she had done that she was now having to face and take responsibility for and I do think she was upset and she was angry and desperate, just as the prosecution laid out yesterday for the jury.''
Parker Schenecker said he now spends his time away from work on the memorial fund in his children's name. “Working in Calyx and Beau's name is pure pleasure for me,'' he said.
“I'm still a father. I'm still a dad. Whether Calyx and Beau are here with me on earth or not, I'm still a dad and that really is what this all boils down to. Dads love and honor their kids forever. That's what it's all about.''