Florida Mom Julie Schenecker killed teens for being “mouthy”

Feb 1, 2011 at 9:45 a.m. ET

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.