Attorneys for Julie Schenecker, who is accused of killing her two teenage children, say her ex-husband was negligent to leave the mentally ill woman alone to take care of the children while he was deployed overseas.
Col. Parker Schenecker "owed a duty of care" to his wife and children to make sure she received proper care, her attorneys wrote in a court filing today in response to her husband's wrongful death lawsuit. But, the attorneys wrote, he breached his duty when he left her alone with the children, and his conduct created "a foreseeable zone of risk of harm to his children, Beau Schenecker and Calyx Schenecker."
"He had a drowning situation and rather than throwing her a life preserver he threw her an anchor," Julie Schenecker's attorney, Edward Brennan, told The Tampa Tribune.
Julie Schenecker faces two counts of first-degree murder in the January deaths of son Beau, 13, and daughter Calyx, 16, in their New Tampa home. She will rely on an insanity defense, and prosecutors will seek the death penalty should she be convicted.
"If it's determined that Julie has liability for the wrongful death of those children, then Mr. Schenecker has some culpability for the death of those children," Brennan told The Tribune.
Parker Schenecker couldn't be reached for comment. However, a family spokeswoman, Lisa Eichhorn, released a written statement.
"While not surprised today at Mrs. Schenecker's response, Mr. Schenecker will continue to hold his ex-wife responsible for her horrific actions and is undeterred in his efforts to forever honor Calyx and Beau's memories," the statement read. "By her court filing today, Mrs. Schenecker would prefer to point the finger of blame while invoking her Fifth Amendment right.
"Mr. Schenecker simply seeks justice to be served for his children and that their murderer be held responsible for her actions," the statement went on to say.
Authorities said Julie Schenecker shot Calyx because she was "mouthy" and Beau because he sassed back after soccer practice.
Parker Schenecker, an intelligence officer assigned to U.S. Central Command, was in Qatar on Jan. 28, 2011, when police said his wife shot their children. Their 20-year marriage ended in divorce in May.
In 1992, Julie Schenecker was first diagnosed with depression and treated with medication, according to court documents. From 1997 to 2001, she was medicated daily except for when she was pregnant and nursing, her attorneys said. They said Parker Schenecker was aware of that and that his wife suffered "significant post-partum depression" after Beau's birth.
In 2001, Julie Schenecker suffered a debilitating bout of depression and was hospitalized for nine months, documents state. During that time, her attorneys said, Parker Schenecker hired a nanny to assist with his children and he sought help from his mother.
That same year, Julie Schenecker was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder and severe depression, the documents state. She later was diagnosed with personality disorder.
Parker Schenecker knew his wife went through a manic phase for six months from 2005 to 2006 and that she refused to take medication, according to the documents. He took her to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.
In fall 2010, Julie Schenecker "fell into a severe depression," the documents state. "During this time she began to pull away from friends and family and began to undergo a series of surgeries that resulted in her addiction to pain killers, in particular Oxycontin."
Parker Schenecker knew his wife abused Oxycontin and alcohol and eventually forbade her from driving with their children, the documents state.
When Julie Schenecker got into a Nov. 8 car crash while "intoxicated and under the influence of Oxycontin," he kicked her out of their home and forced her to temporarily live by herself in a hotel, the documents state. Two days later, he took her to a rehabilitation center in Clearwater, and she spent weeks there.
But from Nov. 28, 2010, through late January she continued abusing Oxycontin and alcohol, and she "had no contact with friends or family members and had virtually no interaction with her husband or her children," her attorneys wrote. "Although Parker Schenecker was aware that Julie Powers Schenecker was in bed for twenty (20) hours per day, severely depressed and bedridden, he did nothing to get her back in a rehabilitation center, obtain her treatment for her or contact her psychiatrist for assistance."
Brennan said Parker Schenecker emailed family less than two weeks before the children were killed.
"I appreciate your concern about our current situation," Parker Schenecker wrote in an email included in Julie Schenecker's court filing. "For those of you who have committed to help, by both showing up at our home to lend a hand and those of you who have committed to be here immediately if there's a problem we can't handle, I will forever be in your debt."
But for those critical of Parker Schenecker's handling "of the current crisis or how I parent my children, I appreciate your concern … and no worries, I'll write off your criticism as ignorance," he wrote.
Julie Schenecker knew she was "broken" before Parker Schenecker met her, he wrote, and she didn't tell him. He wrote that he was patiently working to help – probably against his better judgment.
"Have you ever lived with someone with Bipolar Disorder?" he wrote. "Did you stay in that relationship or leave? If you stayed, you have my utmost respect and I'd appreciate your insight on how best to deal with the daily uncertainty and unpredictability and the exhaustion that it brings.
"Have you ever lived with a 50-year-old who has the judgment of a 10-year-old? Did you stay in that relationship or did you leave? If you stayed, you have my utmost sympathy and I'd appreciate your insight on how to explain it to your kids and keep it from negatively affecting them and others."
Parker Schenecker asked, "Have you ever had to deal with your spouse hitting you in front of your children? Have you ever had to deal with your spouse hitting your child in the face while your child was driving the car? Did you stay in that relationship or leave? If you stayed, I share your embarrassment and anger."