Florida military mom guilty of killing her teens - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Florida military mom guilty of killing her teens

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Julie Schenecker (AP Photo/Tampa Bay Times, Daniel Wallace, Pool) Julie Schenecker (AP Photo/Tampa Bay Times, Daniel Wallace, Pool)

By TAMARA LUSH
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- A 53-year-old former military mother was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder, with jurors rejecting the argument that she was legally insane when she shot and killed her 13-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter more than three years ago.

Julie Schenecker wiped her nose and eyes, then the bailiffs handcuffed her as the verdict was read after just about an hour of deliberations. She started to cry. She faces a mandatory life sentence, as prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty. Sentencing was expected Thursday.

Schenecker, a former Army linguist, fatally shot her daughter, Calyx, and son, Beau, in January 2011 while her now ex-Army officer husband, Col. Parker Schenecker, was on a 10-day deployment to the Middle East.

Parker and his mother looked sad and exhausted as the verdict was read Thursday. Julie Schenecker's sister cried softly.

All six mental health experts who testified said Schenecker was mentally ill, but three experts called by prosecutors said she was legally sane when she shot her children.

Defense attorneys said Schenecker is so affected by bipolar disorder and depression that she doesn't know right from wrong. Under Florida law, the inability to tell right from wrong is one of the criteria for a not guilty by reason of insanity plea.

Her attorney, Jennifer Spradley, told jurors they needed to do is consider Schenecker's state of mind when she pulled the trigger, that she was suffering from such severe depression and manic depression that she didn't understand what she was doing.

"Her mind is clouded. She didn't choose this illness -- it chose her," Spradley said. "When she wasn't sick, she was a good mother."

Experts testifying for the prosecution say the longtime military wife was calculating and deliberate when she bought the .38-caliber handgun days before the killings, along with more-lethal hollow bullets. But in her journal, she lamented the three-day wait for a background check, writing she had planned a weekend massacre.

Prosecutor Jay Pruner told jurors in his closings that Schenecker was "desperate, depressed, angry, but very determined." He said she was despondent over what she thought was the inevitability of divorce from her husband of 20 years.

"These were deliberate, well-planned, well-implemented and well-concealed homicides," Pruner said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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