TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A Tampa woman on trial in the slaying of her two teenage children while her Army officer husband was overseas yelled, “Liar!” at a psychiatrist who was testifying Friday that he had told her not to drink while taking drugs to control her bipolar disorder.
Julie Schenecker lashed out at Dr. Demian Obregon from the defense table after he said he had warned her that the alcohol-drug combination could be deadly. She interjected that he had approved her having a couple drinks.
Judge Emmett Battles immediately stopped the hearing, ordered the jury out and admonished Schenecker, telling her she would be restrained if she had another outburst. She slowly nodded “yes” when asked if she understood.
Defense attorneys have said that besides bipolar disorder, the defendant suffered from depression. Obregon, a University of South Florida psychiatrist who treated Schenecker, is a key defense witness to establish Schenecker’s mental state. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Schenecker, 53, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the January 2011 killing of her 16-year old daughter, Calyx, and 13-year-old son, Beau. They were killed while her husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, was deployed in the Middle East, and the couple has since divorced.
If convicted, Julie Schenecker would receive a life sentence. If acquitted by reason of insanity, she would be committed to a hospital until she is no longer a danger to herself or others.
Obregon said he met and talked by phone with Julie Schenecker a handful of times over six months, ending less than a month before the shootings.
He noted Schenecker’s condition became increasingly depressed and she suffered side effects from the different medications she was prescribed to combat bipolar disorder.
Obregon noted Schenecker had limited coping skills, limited insight and strained family relations during a visit six weeks before the killings. At the time, Obregon noted Schenecker could be potentially dangerous to herself and others and possibly committed to a mental hospital for three days under state law.
Obregon read a November 2010 email from Parker Schenecker detailing his wife’s increasingly fractured relationship with their daughter and how Beau was scared to ride in a car with her after she nearly hit a mailbox taking him to soccer practice.
“It’s a never-ending battle,” Parker Schenecker wrote. “I can’t get either one to disengage but it seems as if Julie is the one bound and determined to argue.”
Parker also wrote that his wife was starting to abuse alcohol and lose her memory. He wrote that his wife planned to move out of the house and get treatment.
“There’s so much dependency going on in her body and mind right now that she’s truly a disaster,” he wrote. “We all need a break — she needs some clarity and sanity.”
The family’s housekeeper, Michelle Frisco, also testified Friday that Julie Schenecker did not seem the same after she returned from rehab in November 2010. Pill bottles were often scattered across a bedside table and Schenecker acted increasingly unusual at times, staying in her pajamas in bed.
Frisco cleaned the Schenecker house for two years, starting while the family still was unpacking and moving in. Frisco last saw Schenecker Jan. 26, 2011, two days before the defendant was found passed out and her children slain.
That day, Frisco said Schenecker was on the patio smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee. She came in as she normally would, put her coffee mug in the sink and mumbled something about going to the doctor and some other errands before going upstairs to take a shower and get dressed, Frisco said.
The last room Frisco cleaned was the master bedroom, where Schenecker had seemingly gotten ready. However, rather than leave, Schenecker was sitting up in her bed, fully clothed, with her eyes closed, Frisco said.
Frisco finished cleaning, left the key, picked up her check and did not plan her next visit with Schenecker, as she usually did. Frisco did not find out about the slayings until a few days later.
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