TAMPA — Parker Schenecker's children told him they didn't want their mother to drive them anymore. They felt scared after Julie, drunk and high on Oxycontin, got into a car wreck.
"I MUST protect them; they are telling me that they feel unsafe. This is the basic responsibility of a parent, especially a father," Parker Schenecker wrote in a Dec. 6, 2010, email to his wife, who had just returned from a drug rehabilitation center.
"They've asked their father for protection. The hard part of this is that they've asked for protection from their mother."
The email marked a chilling prelude to what happened less than two months later: The two children, 16-year-old Calyx and 13-year-old Beau, were murdered by their mother, authorities say.
The email is one of several newly released to the St. Petersburg Times by Lisa Eichhorn, a spokeswoman for Parker Schenecker, after Julie's civil attorney released one of Parker's own emails and blamed him for leaving the children with Julie.
Eichhorn said the messages would show how hard Parker and others tried to help Julie.
The exchanges, including emails from Julie's siblings, provide new insight into a family struggling to deal with a mentally ill woman who often pushed them away.
They show a wife who had normal moments — Did her niece get the gift she sent? — but whose downward spiral inspired angst and desperate attempts to reason with her.
They also portray a husband who was prepared to give up his military ambitions to help his family, but who had a deployment that took him away from home at what would prove to be the worst possible time.
What follows is a timeline that includes excerpts from emails shared with the Times. In some cases, there are long gaps between messages. It's unclear what other emails might exist.
• • •
Dec. 3, 2010
Parker's email to Julie, just before she returns home from rehab.
"Pls consider executing a release for (name of rehab doctor) to speak with me."
Julie responds to Parker.
"hell no! sorry about your luck."
Parker writes back.
"I think if you asked him, he'd say that he would like to and that it would be helpful. He would help with some ideas on how to improve things while keeping your private issues private . . . I believe it's critical for us (all four of us) to get into family counseling immediately. Since you feel ganged up on, this situation will quickly spin out of control without it."
Julie emails Parker. She talks about an upcoming appointment with a mental health counselor and whether she should bring the children along.
"That's what rehab was all about . . . Figuring out what my plan for success is . . . Calyx is too pissed at me — worse than before the accident."
Parker e-mails Julie. He talks about deteriorating relations between Julie and the children after she returned home from rehab. His mother (referred to here as "Nan") had been staying with the family.
"Maybe I was wrong when I recommended to you that you not come back in and apologize and ask for forgiveness on Day 1, but I don't think so. What the kids need (and deserve) are ACTIONS, not words, and your recent actions (staying in bed all day and pretty much refusing to reassimilate until Nan leaves) are completely counter to what they are expecting and are bringing about their continued disappointment in and disdain for you. Therefore, my comment a few nights ago about you "sealing your fate" with the kids.
"You're losing your connection with them regardless of how much I try to help them rationalize the situation. Therefore, my recommendation on family counseling. They cannot expect overnight change in you; your expectation of overnight change in them is similarly untenable."
• • •
No further emails were provided for December. Parker Schenecker's spokeswoman says Julie was improving during the Christmas holidays, getting out of bed and joining the family to open gifts. Julie's lawyer says Christmas was not normal: It was the first year she hadn't decorated or bought gifts.
Parker gets orders for 10-day deployment to Middle East. His spokeswoman said he did not ask his commanders for a delay because Julie assured him she could handle things for the short period. She had suffered periods of depression previously, and he didn't think this one was any different.
E-mail to Julie from her brother, Dave Powers:
"Hope you had a nice birthday yesterday! We plan on coming to Florida again during Spring Break. First full week of April."
Parker sends e-mail to family members lashing out against criticisms over how he had handled "the current crisis." (This excerpt is from an email released by Julie's civil attorney.)
"Although she didn't tell me until after we were married for a year or so, Julie was broken BEFORE I met her. She knew beforehand, but didn't tell me. 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. I am still here, 20+ years later, still picking up the pieces and the slack, probably against my better judgment."
Julie writes her brother Dave, responding to his message that he planned to visit during spring break.
"Sounds great — tho I don't know our spring break dates yet. I hope we time it right. Did Julie (Dave's daughter) get a little box from me? Didn't even put a note on it — shame on me!"
Parker leaves for 10-day deployment in Afghanistan.
Julie e-mails brother Dave Powers.
"Please fwd me the 'letter' parker (wrote) to all the family. THX. he went to (Afghanistan) today for 10 days."
Powers emails Julie. He refuses to send her Parker's email. He also notices that her emails have gotten sloppy and incoherent.
"I also have received other disturbing emails from you in the past that make little or no sense. I ask myself, how long has this been going on? Why didn't I do something then? What do I do now?
"You have told me stories first hand, where, for certain periods of time, you have been locked up in a padded room, naked, with nothing at all, so that you wouldn't hurt yourself. Yet, when you returned home, your husband and family were there and received you back. . . .
"Whatever happened to hearing about the 'old Parker' that cooked for you, cared for you, has taken you to exotic places/vacations/cruises around the world, looks after the kids. Yes, he's been focused on his job. But you knew that going into it. I have always been proud of him (and you, and your children) and have told my friends about my brother-in-law, about how his grandfather was a general. How he has had a "Generals Party" for the last umpteen years.
"Then about a year or so ago, he tells me, 'Dave, I'm giving it up and retiring. I'm not moving anymore. We're staying put, until the kids have graduated. Tampa is our home.'
"I was in disbelief. Here is a guy who is giving up his dream, after 27 dedicated years of serving our country. He's walking away from it all. And to do what? A political agenda? Something bigger? No, to stay in one spot because his family wants him to. That's HUGE! Note: I have also always told my friends, my opinion is that if Parker doesn't make it to General, he will have failed. Doesn't matter how close he's gotten or what all he's done. His opinion of himself would be, is that "HE FAILED TO ACCOMPLISH HIS MISSION" . . .
"I, too, am willing to come down, but not to babysit or be a chauffeur. There are some serious things that need to be addressed. And it needs all four of you on board. But I don't think YOU even want to see a ship pull up to the dock, let alone get aboard."
Julie's sister, Carol Walsh, emails Parker, telling him that Julie asked her on Jan. 20 to send Parker's Jan. 15 family email because she wanted to share it with her counselor. Carol says Parker should send it to her and urges he do so because "the uncertainty of not knowing what you wrote is probably more distressing to her than what you actually wrote." (According to Julie's civil attorney, Edward Brennan, she didn't see her husband's email until Brennan showed it to her this week.)
"I'm sure you have been doing your best to deal with the entire situation with both Julie and the kids. And, yes, everything is falling on your shoulders. I talked to her for quite awhile the other night and she feels like she is all alone. She wants you to 'talk' to her. I know it has to be very difficult, why would you want to talk to someone who is in a severe depression. She conveyed to us months ago that she had lost her relationship with Calyx and if she loses her relationship with you, my biggest concern is her giving up, because she feels she has nothing left, and committing suicide.
"When I asked you 'Or do you not care anymore and are done?' I was not criticizing you at all, but rather asking a pointed question. Your mother had said to me when we spoke on your birthday, 'I don't know how much more he can handle' and something else that made me wonder what your level of commitment to Julie and the marriage was/would be. I know that it's been 20 years of ups and downs and I would not blame you if you were to be 'done.' But I do know that Julie said within the last 6 months that the last several years of your marriage had been the best.
"As her husband, as long as you are there and are committed to helping her move forward, it is not my place to step in. Hence, the main reason why I have not already come down to FL. I have offered to Julie numerous times and have checked airfares numerous times also. But until and unless you or her ask me to come down, I won't just show up.
"If you can't make things work out or just can't do it anymore, please let me know, as I will step into the picture. Please know that I have been telling her all along that she has to do this for herself, that nobody else can do it for her. But I think she does need your help."
Julie drives to Lock N Load in Oldsmar and buys a gun. This begins a three-day waiting period.
Dave Powers emails Julie and asks if she'll respond to his earlier email.
"Sorry I haven't called to follow up on this email . . . I would like you to respond to the various points put forth by me. I would like to see YOUR response to each and every item I discussed . . . Please respond."
Julie drives back to Oldsmar and picks up the gun.
Julie uses the newly purchased gun and shoots and kills son, Beau, in the family minivan before soccer practice and daughter, Calyx, in the home, at a computer, police say.
At 7:33 p.m., after the shootings, Julie emails Parker.
"Get home soon — were waiting for you!"
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3374.