TAMPA — Attorneys for a woman accused of murdering her two children say another person also bears blame in the deaths: their father.
Parker Schenecker knew his then-wife, Julie, was mentally unstable yet left the teenagers in her care while he served overseas in the military, they said.
Julie Schenecker's attorneys make that argument in a response Monday to a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Parker Schenecker, an Army colonel who was in the Middle East at the time of the January shootings.
They say the accusation is based partly on emails he sent to family members 11 days before the children — 16-year-old daughter Calyx and 13-year-old son Beau — were killed.
In the email, Parker Schenecker wrote that his wife had "the judgment of a 10-year-old" and had hit him and their children.
Parker Schenecker thanked family members who offered help but dismissed those who had criticized "how I'm handling the current crisis."
"Julie was broken before I met her. … I didn't break her, but have been patiently working behind the scenes to pick up the pieces and pick up the slack when she falters," he wrote.
At another point, he asked relatives to "channel your energy toward helping Julie to help herself. Although I'm still trying, I've been unsuccessful in that respect."
Julie Schenecker had been seeing psychiatrists and taking medication since the early 1990s, said her attorney, Paul Sullivan, and in 2001 was committed to a mental institution for nine months.
He said she had to go to drug rehabilitation for alcohol and pain addiction just before last Christmas and spent the holidays in bed. Parker Schenecker forbade his wife from driving the children because of her addiction problems, Sullivan said.
"We pointed out that it was partially negligence on his part that led to these children being left alone with their mother at a time when the dad, according to his own emails, could clearly tell she was a danger to herself and others," Sullivan said.
A spokeswoman for Parker Schenecker dismissed the accusation.
"While not surprised today at Mrs. Schenecker's response, Mr. Schenecker will continue to hold his ex-wife responsible for her horrific actions and is undeterred in his efforts to forever honor Calyx and Beau's memories," spokeswoman Lisa Eichhorn said in a statement Monday. "… Mr. Schenecker simply seeks justice to be served for his children and that their murderer be held responsible for her actions."
The children's bodies were found Jan. 28 in the Scheneckers' Tampa Palms North home. Each was shot twice. Detectives said Julie Schenecker admitted shooting the children, but she has pleaded not guilty and her criminal defense attorneys plan to use insanity as her defense.
At the time, she was being treated for depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Detectives found numerous prescribed medications in the house. A close friend told them that the medicines were not "meshing."
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Parker Schenecker filed the lawsuit against his wife earlier this year, telling the St. Petersburg Times he did so only after she sought money for her legal defense as part of their divorce.
The Scheneckers were divorced in May, though the distribution of their assets remains an open question.
Sullivan said he had hoped to postpone filing a response in the lawsuit "to keep from riling up all the hard feelings." But he said she has to put up a defense.
He said that on other occasions, Parker Schenecker had enlisted help, including from his mother, when his then-wife was at low points.
"All through his marriage, he's relied on people to help when she's been bad off," he said. "But this time he didn't."