Death penalty to be considered in Schenecker trial

Posted at 1:08 PM, Jan 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 11:25:53-04

New developments in the case against a Tampa mother accused of killing her two teenage children in 2011.

A motion hearing Friday morning only took about an hour and a half of the allotted four hour time frame.  Two important questions were answered for the upcoming trial of Julie Schenecker, charged with two counts of first degree murder.  

The defense argued that seeking the death penalty in the case would be unconstitutional, citing a court case from years ago. 

Hillsborough Circuit Court Judge Bennett Battles sided with state prosecutor Stephen Udagawa, that it is constitutional.  Florida is one of two states that acknowledges the death penalty as constitutional, according to the judge.

"In light of the fact that the Florida supreme court has found that the death penalty scheme to be constitutional," said Judge Battles.

Schenecker, 52, sat quietly in front of Judge Battles during the hearing.  The only sound coming from her side of the table was the occasional noise from her shackled wrists and ankles.  She took a few glances back to her Mom and Dad seated one row behind her in the courtroom.

She's accused of killing her children, Beau, 13, and his sister Calyx, 16, in their New Tampa home on January 28, 2011.  A call from a concerned, out-of-state relative prompted Tampa Police to make a trip to the house.  It was that morning they made the horrific discovery.  Beau's body in the garage and his sister's in an upstairs bedroom. 

Also decided in Friday's hearing, if testimony from a neighbor would be allowed at the trial.  The neighbor said in previous pre-trial interviews that before the murders, Schenecker said, "I want to kill her."  The statement was made several months before the murders in reference to her daughter, according to the neighbor.  

The state acknowledged that in the time leading up to the murders, both Calyx and Beau were displaying behavioral issues.  Recently released emails from Schenecker revealed her thoughts about sending Beau away to boarding school.  Issues from both teens seemed to continued to mount.  

"Now the fact that this defendant makes a statement well in advance of the murder also could go to the issue of sanity," explained the State.  "That this is something that's already in her mind.  That she's already thinking about it," said Battles.

In the end, Judge Battles said he would allow the neighbor's testimony.

"The state has made the case that this is relevant in the case on issues of premeditation, motive and intent in the relationship between the defendant and the victim," said Judge Battles.

In emails obtained by the courts, sent before the murders, it was clear Schenecker was also having problems with her husband. 

In 55 pages of personal emails, Colonel Parker Schenecker, who is a military intelligence officer, says his wife refused to get help and her bi-polar disorder only got worse over their nearly 20-year marriage.

Her trial is scheduled to start Monday, April 28.