Incomprehensible Crime

Is there anything in this world that would cause a mom to shoot and kill her children? The answer is no for nearly every one of us. However, Julie Schenecker shot and killed her two teenage children for being “mouthy.” What could make a mom snap?

woma in handcuffs

The sickening details

Julie Schenecker, 50, is accused of -- and admitted to -- killing her two children. The Tampa Bay, Florida, mom is married to Army Col. Parker Schenecker, who just returned from Qatar after the crimes. Police reports indicate that Schenecker admitted to shooting her 13-year-old son, Beau, and her 16-year-old daughter, Calyx, last Thursday. She shot them with a gun she purchased five days before the murders.

Police didn't arrest Schenecker until Friday, the day after she murdered her children. They received a call from her mother, who was concerned because Schenecker was depressed and she wasn't able to get a hold of her. Her mother told police Schenecker had sent her an email on Thursday, complaining about her kids' behavior and stating that it "would all be over soon."

Cold-blooded murderer?

Schenecker allegedly told police she killed her children because they "talked back, they were mouthy and she was tired of it," according to an ABC News story. On the way to soccer practice, she shot her son in the head two times while in the car. She then returned home, parked the car in the garage and shot her daughter in the head. Her daughter had been sitting at the computer studying and apparently never even saw her mom coming.

Police noted that before Schenecker murdered her children, she had written notes planning the crimes. Following the shootings, she wrote additional notes describing them. A police spokesman said of the notes, "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. When she's describing it, it's just a very matter of fact, devoid of emotion, matter."

History of problems?

In November, Tampa police had investigated Schenecker for child abuse. Her daughter, Calyx, was in counseling and she told her counselor about an incident wherein her mother hit her multiple times.

Schenecker had also been in a car accident that she caused. Highway patrol reports indicate that she "showed signs of drug impairment," although she was released from the hospital without being tested for drugs or alcohol.

According to ABC News, "[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."

Were there red flags?

Were all of these incidents a series of red flags that those who knew her best should have seen? What causes a mother to murder her own children? More frightening, is anyone you know capable of committing such a horrendous crime?

Without knowing more about the case, it's impossible to answer these questions. And I doubt any of us believe that someone we know could kill her own children. I have to believe that a mom must be seriously mentally ill or on drugs to intentionally take the lives of her kids. Even then, it's impossible for me to wrap my mind around it.

An ABC News Consultant who was formerly an FBI special agent and profiler said in the ABC News article, "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."

If you know anyone who needs help…

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others, please seek help. The National Alliance on Mental illness offers an information and referral service. The phone number is (800) 950-NAMI.


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Comments on "Florida Mom Julie Schenecker killed teens for being “mouthy”"

Lisa James February 06, 2011 | 10:37 PM

Some of you people have no idea what the hell ur talking about! When kids become teenagers it doesnt matter how the hell they were raised or taught to act. They all have their own ideas and ways of thinking. They think they are right and the parents dont know what their talking about. So dont yall dare blame it on that poor woman cus til yall have gone through the hell that me and her have, yall dont know what the hell ur talking about. When is PARENT ABUSE gonna get the recognition it deserves? That woman needs everyones support right now! Hell she should have gotten it before she had to resort to killing them. YOU WANT TO BLAME SOMEONE, BLAME IT ON DSS FOR ALWAYS INTERFERING AND NOT LETTING THE PARENTS BUST THEIR ASSES LIKE THEY NEED IT! GOOD GOING DSS, NOW YALL HAVE TWO MORE UNDER YOUR BELTS. CONGRATS!! AND THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS U FREAKN NORM PEOPLE CUS YOUR A LIAR IF YOU SAY YOU ARE!

Terry February 02, 2011 | 8:13 AM

Elaine explained it best. Those of us who are the "norm" will never be able to wrap our minds around or comprehend the what ifs and whys. Severe chemical imbalances, whether drugs by choice or physiological in nature leading to such "hallucinating" acts (or that individuals interpretation of their own reality) are beyond my comprehension.

H February 01, 2011 | 5:09 PM

Wow. That is sad. I do believe that there were warning signs that were not followed up properly and that upsets me. It's one thing to have red flags that are explained away, but at least they were followed up on. In this case, I think it is indicative of the isolation (and competitiveness) that moms can feel. Compound that with a addiction or mental illness and it's a recipe for disaster. I hope that she does open up about how she came to that horrible place so that it can be a lesson for all of us to learn how to ask for or give help.

Jen February 01, 2011 | 3:44 PM

As an Army wife and former health care provider, I would like to point out that all branches of the military offer free family counseling through local chaplains, Army One Source, and through Tricare. Dependents who are depressed and under stress can always go to their local emergency room or health clinic when in crisis. They can also contact the Family Service Center on post. I was often astonished when family members would burst into tears at appointments with no clue about how to access the services available to them. We need to do more to get the word out that help is available. Dealing with the stress of single parenting while a spouse is deployed is very difficult--even more so when you are struggling with depression or preexisting health issues. I am saddened by this tragedy--but we should use this tragedy to inspire us to reach out to any mother who might be feeling overwhelmed. It should have never come to this!

Tammy February 01, 2011 | 1:25 PM

This is beyond being crazy or pushed to the edge, I have six children of my own and the get on my last nerve at times but to shoot them because they are "MOUTHY" my goodness, they are children. I get that everyone has a break point but this takes the cake. All teens are mouthy some just more than others it's where we as parents step in and teach them not to be. they can say what they have to without being rude and nasty about it or to teach them what most of our parents thought us if you don't have something nice to say don't say it all.

Elaine February 01, 2011 | 11:03 AM

This story has been so disturbing to me since I first read about it on Saturday. I wonder what can be done to help families and prevent tragedies like this? I've finally decided that there ARE no lessons here for parents or for society. There are no laws that could help. Resources only work if they're tapped. The bottom line is there are always going to be these crazy outliers who are sicker than anyone could ever realize who might do extreme things. It's just one of the risks we live with when we're... alive.

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