In the hours after she was taken into custody on suspicion she had murdered her two children, Julie Schenecker let two Tampa police detectives interview her.
"I'll talk," she told detectives Stephen Prebich and Gary Sandel.
But what came out of her mouth that day in 2011 was verbal slurry, as confusing and contradictory as the utterances of a sleepy child.
Did she understand that anything she said could be used against her in court? Prebich asked.
"I don't want to go to court," Schenecker said, her voice soft and flat.
Had she been threatened or coerced to say the things she was saying?
"No . . . Yes." The detective repeated the question. "No," she replied.
She had spent the last eight weeks in bed, she told the detectives. She was taking lithium and as many as 10 other medications, the names of which she struggled to pronounce. She was bipolar, she said.
"It's up to you whether or not you want an attorney," Prebich told her. "I should have paid attention to all the squeaks in the chairs," Schenecker responded, apparently referring to the chair she was sitting in, which, the detectives later agreed, was squeaky.
Audio recordings of the conversation were released Tuesday, providing the first insight into Schenecker's state of mind immediately after her arrest on Jan. 28, 2011, the day police found her in a blood-covered bathrobe by the pool of her Tampa Palms home.
The recordings contain more than 30 minutes of her conversation with the detectives, an interview that ranged from questions about whether she was taking her medications to inquiries about her decade-long military career as a Russian linguist and interrogator.
Parts of the interview were redacted, and the newly released recordings do not include Schenecker confessing or talking in detail about what happened to her children. At one point, she asked the detectives: "Are my kids coming in later?"
Prosecutors released the recordings hours before a court hearing in which Schenecker's defense attorneys asked Circuit Judge Emmett L. Battles to exclude her interview from her upcoming trial. Detectives read Schenecker her rights at a time when she was unable to understand what was happening, her attorneys have argued.
Questioned by Schenecker's attorneys on Tuesday, Prebich and Sandel said that when they sat down to interview her more than three years ago, she seemed lucid.
"Most of the questions that were asked of her, she was pretty specific with the answers," Sandel said.
In what could be a crucial piece of evidence, Tampa police Detective Sonja McCaughey said Tuesday that she overheard Schenecker spontaneously confessing to the murders while McCaughey was monitoring her in a holding cell.
"I shot them," McCaughey said Schenecker announced, directing the comment to no one in particular. "I was going to shoot myself, but I fell asleep."
Until now, the public's only access to Schenecker's unfiltered thoughts has been via the emails she sent to her then-husband — they have since divorced — and other family members in the hours after police say she shot her children, Beau, 13, and Calyx, 16.
Prosecutors say Schenecker, 53, killed her children at their home on the night of Jan. 27, 2011. They say she shot Beau after driving him home from soccer practice, then walked upstairs and shot Calyx as she was doing homework. She had purchased the gun days before.
Schenecker told police she was tired of her children talking back.
On Tuesday, her attorneys also asked the judge to exclude from the trial allegations that she had slapped her daughter for mouthing off and, separately, that she had crashed her car while allegedly drunk and high on OxyContin.
Investigators took 567 prescription pills from her home and two empty painkiller bottles. A friend told police that Schenecker suffered from tardive dyskinesia, a disorder that comes from long-term or high-dose anti-psychotic drug use.
Her trial, which is scheduled to begin April 28, will center on her mental health — her attorneys plan to argue that she is not guilty by reason of insanity. They have said Schenecker was being treated for depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse at the time of the shootings.
Schenecker, who is charged with two counts of first degree murder, faces life in prison if convicted. Prosecutors said last week they would not to seek the death penalty because her mental health issues are so severe that the state Supreme Court would not uphold a death sentence.
Times staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.