TAMPA — In the days before Army Col. Parker Schenecker left for the Middle East, the family of his wife, Julie, worried how she would cope.
She had a history of psychiatric disorders and had just come home from a 21-day stay in a drug and alcohol treatment center, her lawyers say. She returned depressed. When her out-of-state relatives called, she didn't speak or get out of bed.
Attorney Edward Brennan said the family offered help.
"What they said was, 'Parker, if you're not going to handle the situation, let us know. We'll handle it for you,' " Brennan said.
Instead, the colonel left two teenagers in their mother's care. Less than two weeks later, Julie Schenecker was charged with fatally shooting them.
Until now, Parker Schenecker has been portrayed purely as a victim while his now ex-wife faces the death penalty in the Jan. 27 killings. He started a foundation on behalf of the children, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13. He has appeared at numerous fundraising and memorial events.
And that's the true picture, said his spokeswoman, Lisa Eichhorn. "He's a grieving father whose only desire is to honor his children," she said.
Julie Schenecker's lawyers now present a harsher portrait, saying he ignored offers of help and abandoned his children to an unstable mother.
Parker Schenecker was out of town Tuesday and not reachable, according to Eichhorn.
The allegations surfaced this week when Brennan, one of Julie Schenecker's civil attorneys, filed a written response to Parker Schenecker's wrongful death suit, brought last May.
The response included an email he sent family members Jan. 15, four days before he left for the Middle East.
"For those who have expressed your criticism about how I'm handling the current crisis or how I parent my children … I'll write off your criticism as ignorance," he wrote.
He described the difficulties of living with someone who suffers from bipolar disorder and is also an "alcoholic/addict."
"Have you ever had to deal with your spouse hitting you in front of your children? Have you ever had to deal with your spouse hitting your child in the face while your child was driving the car?
"Did you stay in that relationship or leave? If you stayed, I share your embarrassment and anger."
Schenecker didn't describe that kind of conflict when he talked with the St. Petersburg Times in May. At the time, he said some of the couple's best years together had been recent ones. He said he never thought her capable of harming their children.
In his Jan. 15 email, he told relatives: "I don't want your pity but I DESERVE your respect."
He sent the email to his mother, his brother, his wife's parents, her sister and her brother. When the Times attempted to contact family members, none responded. Instead, attorney Brennan returned the call and said Julie Schenecker's relatives would speak only through him.
Family members had helped care for the children in November 2010 while their mother was in rehab, Brennan said. But in the weeks that followed, relatives had trouble reaching her.
Parker told them he had things under control, the attorney said.
Yet, according to court filings, Julie Schenecker had been continuing to abuse alcohol and Oxycontin. She was in bed for 20 hours a day, "severely depressed," and had no contact with friends or family members and "virtually no interaction with her husband or her children," Brennan said in court documents.
Her husband had prohibited her from driving the children due to her addiction and mental instability, Brennan said.
But, unlike previous occasions, Parker Schenecker did not ask for family help when he got his deployment orders, Brennan said.
"Why would you leave her alone?" the attorney asked. "Nobody knows why he did what he did."
Julie Schenecker's criminal trial is expected late next year.