TAMPA- The Tampa mother who told detectives she killed her two teenage children for being "mouthy" pleaded not guilty Wednesday to first-degree murder charges.
Julie Schenecker, 50, sat subdued with her eyes closed for most of the brief arraignment, which was held amid heavy police presence because of the publicity generated by the case. Dressed in red jail scrubs with her wrists and ankles shackled, she sat on a wooden bench and did not speak. Her public defender, Robert Frasier, entered the pleas on her behalf.
Schenecker's demeanor in court was in stark contrast to how she appeared on the day of her arrest Jan. 28, when she was agitated, visibly shaking and had to be supported by deputies while being booked into jail.
A search-warrant affidavit filed with the court said police officers conducting a welfare check that morning found Schenecker unconscious on the back screened porch of their upscale north Tampa home, with dried blood on her white robe.
The bodies of her 16-year-old daughter, Calyx, and 13-year-old son were found in the home. She told officers she shot both of them twice in the head for talking back and being "mouthy," and had written a note describing plans for what she called a "massacre."
Schenecker's husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, was out of town and unable to attend Wednesday's hearing, according to a statement issued by a family spokeswoman.
State Circuit Judge Ashley Moody appointed the public defender to represent Julie Schenecker, noting the expected high cost of the defense and that no one apparently is helping to pay. Frasier said he will ask that the family's assets be frozen until their finances can be determined. Frasier said Parker Schenecker and his attorney are aware of that.
The family's statement did not address her defense.
"Currently, (Parker Schenecker) is meeting with family members and close friends to formalize his plans to honor the memory of Calyx and Beau," the statement said. "At the same time, he is considering the best path to help him heal from this tragedy."
Julie Schenecker told detectives she had shot her son twice in the head in the van "for talking back" while she drove him to soccer practice. She said she returned home and killed her daughter with two shots to the head while the girl sat at a computer doing homework. She then apparently moved her to a bed and covered both bodies with blankets.
Both teens were killed with a .38-caliber pistol, which authorities say Schenecker bought five days earlier. Her husband, a military intelligence officer, was on duty in the Middle East at the time.
Records showed that the family had been in counseling and police were called to investigate an abuse claim after Calyx told the counselor that her mom hit her on two occasions. A state child welfare worker who investigated wrote in a report that the children apparently were in no danger at home.
In Florida, a first-degree murder conviction carries either the death penalty or life in prison with no chance of early release. The next hearing in the case was set for April 5.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)