Tampa Mom Julie Schenecker Was Probed for Child Abuse in Fall, But Not Charged

Julie Schenecker was investigated for child abuse in November, but not charged.

January 31, 2011, 9:18 AM

Jan. 31. 2011 —, 2011 -- Julie Schenecker, the Tampa mother who police say confessed to killing her two teenage kids last week, was investigated for possible child abuse last fall, but was not charged, according to a police report.

Schenecker, 50, is facing two counts of first-degree murder. Holding a tissue and crying softly, the Army wife appeared in court today via closed circuit cameras from the Hillsborough County Jail. Judge Walter Heinrich ordered her held without bond.

Schenecker was arrested Friday when police, responding to a call from her mother, found her covered in blood on the back porch of her home.

The woman allegedly confessed to the officers there that she had shot her son, Beau, 13, and then daughter Calyx, 16, the day before because they "talked back, they were mouthy and she was tired of it," police said.

Her husband, Army Colonel Parker Schenecker, released a statement today saying that he was grieving with family and friends. He said that "he is devoted first and foremost to honoring the lives and memory of his beautiful children, Calyx and Beau," according to the statement released by Schenecker.

Colonel Schenecker returned from Qatar where he was on assignment at the time of the murders. He did not appear at his wife's court hearing.

Friends have described the family as appearing normal and happy but a Tampa police report filed in November showed that Julie Schenecker had been investigated for alleged child abuse.

Police visited the Schenecker home Nov. 6, 2010, to investigate an allegation of child abuse made by Calyx. No charges were filed against Schenecker but, according to the police report, Schenecker acknowledged that she had hit her daughter.

Calyx told a counselor that her mother had hit her in the face when they were heading home from cross-country practice Nov. 2, 2010, according to the police report. Investigators said there were no visible injuries on Calyx when the report was filed four days later.

Calyx told investigators that Schenecker had "hit her with an open hand on her face for approximately 30 seconds," according to the report. She said that her face was red afterwards, the report noted.

Schenecker told investigators that she and her daughter had gotten into an argument after Calyx stopped at a grocery store and wouldn't show her mom what she had purchased.

Schenecker claimed her 16-year-old daughter told her to "stay out of her business," according to the police report. She also claimed that the girl said "you're disgusting" and "you're not my parent," the report noted.

Calyx was driving and her mom was in the front passenger seat, according to the report. When the mother and daughter got to the gate of their community, Calyx said that her mother hit her again and Calyx grabbed her hand to stop her mother, according to the report.

Schenecker did not deny hitting Calyx. She told police that she "backhanded her daughter three times" and her daughter "was not bruised or bleeding during the incident."

Calyx said that her sunglasses shielded her from injury. She told police her mother had hit her so hard in the mouth a month earlier that she was bleeding, but never reported it to police.

Schenecker acknowledged that incident but said that she didn't remember Calyx bleeding, according to the report.

Schenecker's Family Attended Al-Anon Meetings

Calyx had been in counseling for three weeks at the Children's Crisis Center in Tampa at the time of the report's filing. Schenecker claimed in the report that her daughter's behavior had changed since she started attending King High School.

Schenecker told investigators "she has had to increase her level of discipline since her daughter no longer responds to her privileges being confiscated," according to the report.

Two days after police visited the Schenecker home, the mom of two got into a car accident that sent her to the hospital.

At the scene of the car accident, the petite blonde "showed signs of drug impairment," according to a Florida Highway Patrol report.

Schenecker was charged with careless driving and forced to take classes, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Schenecker failed to slow down, driving into a vehicle that was pulling a trailer. The trailer became unhitched and the vehicle of the person Schenecker struck ended up on a median facing oncoming traffic, according to the report. Both drivers reported injuries, according to the report.

Schenecker had "dilated pupils with no reaction to light" and "mush-mouthed speech," according to the report. She was taken to a hospital but released before investigators could take a blood sample for drug testing, the report said.

A woman who asked to remain anonymous told ABC News that the family of Schenecker attended an Al-Anon meeting three weeks ago. Al-Anon is a support group for those whose family members abuse drugs or alcohol.

Colonel Schenecker accompanied Beau and Calyx to the meeting of about 20 people, the woman said..

"He was just like any normal dad. He was there to help his kids," the woman said. "It was mentioned by the dad that they were there for the mother [Schenecker]...he said that she did have a drug and alcohol problem and they were here to cope with it."

Beau, 13, didn't speak at the meeting but 16-year-old Calyx did.

"Calyx started to speak and she started to say, 'my mom.' She said, 'my mom' maybe about twice. She couldn't say any more, she started bawling," the woman said.

The woman said she didn't see the family at another Al-Anon meeting.

"It seemed like they were dealing with a lot. I dont' think anyone knew exactly what they were dealing with. I think it was kind of hidden," she said.

Reportedly, Schenecker's mother had grown increasingly concerned about what she said was her daughter's depression.

She'd received a disturbing e-mail from her daughter the day the murders occurred complaining that the kids were talking back and the note ended with Schenecker writing, it "would all be over soon," police said.

When a call to her daughter wasn't answered Friday morning, she called police.

"She felt the note was ominous and so she contacted the Tampa Police Department," Police Spokewswoman Laura McElroy said.

After being read her Miranda Rights, police said, Schenecker confessed to shooting her son twice in the head while they were on the way to soccer practice. She told police that she then drove to the family home in a gated country club community in north Tampa, where she shot her daughter in the back of the head while the teen was studying at her computer, police said.

Police: Calyx, Beau 'Never Saw it Coming'

The children "never saw it coming," police spokeswoman McElroy said.

The scene was so gruesome, counselors met with officers who first responded to the home, McElroy said.

Schenecker's daughter, Calyx, was found in an upstairs bedroom, and Beau was found in an SUV in the garage, police spokeswoman McElroy said.

Both had been shot with a .38-caliber pistol that police believe had been bought five days earlier, according to police.

Schenecker wrote a detailed notes planning the murder and after the murders occurred, she wrote detailed notes describing the crimes, McElroy said.

"It's hard to believe that a mother authored the notes because it's very methodical, non-emotional description of the murder of two innocent children, of her own children. Whe she's describing it, it's just a very matter of fact, devoid of emotion, matter," McElroy said.

At the time of her arrest and confession, Schenecker was not remorseful, McElroy said.

In court today, wearing a burgundy jumpsuit with the words "inmate" written across it, Schenecker did not speak, although she appeared emotional.

Her husband, Col. Parker Schenecker, did not attend the hearing. He is not staying at his home. Public Information Officer McElroy said that it does not appear Col. Schenecker will be supporting his wife through her trial.

Judge Heinrich said the court will request the appointment of doctors for a mental evaluation of Schenecker.

Brad Garrett, a former FBI profiler and special agent who's now an ABC News consultant, said, "In situations where women kill their children ... about 80 percent of the time, it's driven by some mental illness issue ... and what happens is women become so depressed, they believe they can't go on in life and in some situations, they believe that it's better that the children not go on without them there, so they kill the children, then kill themselves."

Schenecker reportedly intended to kill herself, police said. She had left a note detailing why she'd killed her children and her plan to commit suicide, police said.

Former FBI profiler Garrett said it will be difficult for Schenecker to use an insanity defense.

"In her case, it appears this is a very pre-mediated murder," Garrett said. "The government can clearly show, well, this woman thought through this. She went and bought a gun, she kills her son at one location, she drives home and kills her daughter at another location. Clearly, [that is] someone who is thinking logically at least about what they're going to do and how they are going to do it."

Schenecker's Teenage Kids Called 'Star Athletes, Star Students'

At Calyx's high school today, the principal asked for a moment of silence, the Tampa Tribune reported. Several students wore Harry Potter clothing for the teen girl who loved the books and movies, the newspaper said.

Schenecker's children were described as star athletes and students, according to friends and family of Schenecker.

A Facebook group memorializing the siblings has been visited by over 7000 people."These were special children," John Pisco, a family friend, told ABC News. "The reason why so many people are affected in our community is they've touched a lot of people's lives."

"Obviously, teens are going to say things to their parents, they aren't going to get along sometimes but that? I never saw her once speak wrong to either one of her parents," Calyx's track coach said. "One of the parents was always at a meet, you know, whether it was a dad or mom, someone was always there."

Charanun Soodjinda, 38, who lives across the cul de sac from the Scheneckers, said, "They seemed like a nice family. I never thought this would happen. How could you do that to your children?"

The family moved to Tampa in 2008. Schenecker has no criminal record in Tampa, but was involved in a car crash in November of last year and cited for careless driving, the Associated Press reported.

Schenecker was originally supposed to appear in court Saturday but was taken to a Tampa hospital hours after her arrest Friday. Schenecker was treated for a previously existing medical condition and was released Sunday morning and taken to the Hillsborough County Jail.

When police first arrested Schenecker, she was seen shaking and shackled as she was led from police headquarters Friday.

"I see a woman in shock. That uncontrollable shaking is one of the symptoms of shock," Garrett, the former FBI agent, said. "You've got shock, trauma and probably very little will to live."

ABC News' Dean Schabner and Olivia Katrandjian contributed to this report, which was supplemented by Associated Press reports. ABC affiliate WFTS also contributed.