Julie Schenecker, mother accused of killing kids, pleads not guilty

2:52 PM, Feb 16, 2011   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - The New Tampa mother accused of killing her teenage children entered a not guilty plea at her arraignment this morning.

Julie Schenecker, flanked by four bailiffs, sat with her eyes closed for the entire hearing, which lasted about four minutes.

The case, having sparked national attention and outrage prompted a noticable increase in courtroom security during the hearing.

"You never know when someone might appear in this type of setting that might want to set out - take revenge," said Det. Larry McKinnon with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Schenecker wore an orange uniform that read "inmate" in white block letters in front, socks and plastic sandals.  Her blonde hair looked unkempt, with dark roots grown out, and part of it covered the right side of her face.

Schenecker, 50, was arrested in January after police say she shot and killed her 13-year-old son Beau and 16-year-old daughter Caylx in their New Tampa home. 

At the time, Schenecker's husband and the children's father, Col. Parker Schenecker was serving in Qatar.  He's since traveled home to be with family and say goodbye to his children, but was not in town for Wednesday's arraignment.

Wednesday morning, a family spokesperson released this statement on behalf of Col. Schenecker:

Colonel Parker Schenecker is currently out of the state and was unable to attend Wednesday's arraignment for Julie Schenecker. Currently, he is meeting with family members and close friends to formalize his plans to honor the memory of Calyx and Beau. At the same time, he is considering the best path to help him heal from this tragedy. 

Parker would like to thank everyone who has reached out to express their love for Calyx and Beau and who have shown support for his family during this difficult time. The generosity and love supporters have shown through letters, phone calls and donations to the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund has been humbling.  Parker has finalized plans for the Fund's first donation: C. Leon King High School's Relay for Life benefitting the American Cancer Society.  Calyx's school recently notified Parker that they will honor Calyx by retaining her as Captain of her Harry Potter-inspired "Wizarding Independence Day" team. This contribution is just the first step in keeping his promise to support those causes and activities his children found important.

Pictures: New Tampa Double Murder

After the killings, Julie Schenecker told police she was fed up with her children being "mouthy" and misbehaving.

According to documents, when police arrived at the family's home after the murders, Julie Schenecker was wearing a white robe that was covered in blood.

When Schenecker was arrested, she appeared to shake uncontrollably.  She was hospitalized for two days for a pre-existing medical condition before being transferred to jail.

At her first court appearance, Schenecker wept and shook as the judge decided to hold her without bond.

Police later found a letter that mentioned the three-day waiting period to take a gun home would "delay the massacre."  Investigators believe Schenecker wrote that letter. 

During Wednesday's hearing, Schenecker claimed she could not pay for private representation and requested a public defender, which Judge Ashley Moody granted. 

Her attorneys told the court "expense of a defense in this case is going to be prohibitive and far exceed her family's assets."

Some lawyers estimate those costs could reach $500,000.

Tampa defense attorney Stephen Crawford says the biggest expense in this case will be expert testimony for what's almost certain to be an insanity defense.

If forced to pay her own legal fees, Schenecker's assets would involve money shared with her husband.  That would include their home, and about $200,000 worth of savings and investments according to court documents.

That, says Crawford, begs the question, "Are we gonna take away his money to defend her? I think most people would agree that the public defender is the right way to go in this case."

Crawford predicts it will take up to two years for the case to go to trial. Schenecker is scheduled to be back in court in April 5.

Before then, it's possible a hearing would be held to discuss the possibility of freezing the family's assets.  The judge indicated that Col. Schenecker would have to be present for that hearing, should he decide to pursue it.

Join a discussion about the plea on MomsLikeMe.com.

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