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Schenecker father sues wife suspected of murdering their children

TAMPA — For three months, Parker Schenecker has refrained from public attacks on his wife, even after police say she murdered their two teenage children. He quietly filed for divorce.

But then came her demands.

Julie Schenecker wanted $40,000 for a lawyer and $10,000 for a forensic accountant. She wanted alimony. She wanted health insurance. She wanted him to buy a life insurance policy naming her as beneficiary. And she wanted her diamond engagement ring back.

It was too much, the grieving father thought.

"I was incredulous," he said.

And so, today, at the Hillsborough County Courthouse, he plans to go on the offense, filing a wrongful death lawsuit against his wife of 20 years.

Layered upon an unthinkably tragic double murder case will be an expanding civil action called Schenecker vs. Schenecker.

• • •

Parker Schenecker feels the need to defend his court action.

He spoke Sunday with a St. Petersburg Times reporter by the riverfront in downtown Tampa.

He said he feared that people will see his wrongful death suit as all about money. He is driven by more than that, he said. He wants to use the couple's money to do good in memory of their children.

"I'm standing up for my kids," he said. "I'm making their voices heard. Otherwise, I couldn't be the dad they knew."

Schenecker is a colonel in the Army and has a military bearing, but on Sunday he looked like a soccer dad. He wore sneakers, shorts and a T-shirt. He continues to help coach his kids' sports teams.

He still sleeps at the family home, where his son Beau, 13, and daughter Calyx, 16, were found on Jan. 28, each shot twice. Staying there keeps him close to memories of them.

But he will be out of the Army by June and out of the house where he and Julie raised their kids the last four years. Almost everything there is packed.

He wants to find a smaller place to live, perhaps near MacDill Air Force Base, where he will work as a civilian.

Don't call him colonel, he said. He's Mr. Schenecker now. He's Parker.

• • •

He described his lawsuit in military terms — an element of a mission he said he is honor bound to complete.

He has already created the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund. He said he eventually hopes to start, or join, a nonprofit charity. He said he hopes to keep the family assets intact as part of that legacy.

Divorce complicates his plan. Schenecker told his wife he was getting a divorce the first time he saw her in jail. He said he later offered her a settlement, which she rejected.

Instead, she filed a counter divorce suit. She demanded half of the $2 million marital estate in addition to alimony, health insurance and money for litigation.

The wrongful death suit will seek an unspecified amount of monetary damages.

In the drafted complaint, which Schenecker provided to the Times, the killings are closely described. Beau was shot in the family minivan on the way to soccer practice. Calyx was shot at home as she worked at a computer.

The papers include the text of an e-mail Schenecker said he got from his wife at 7:33 p.m. on Jan. 27, the day of the shootings. It said, "Get home soon, we're waiting for you."

According his complaint, Julie Schenecker sent that e-mail "with the intent, or reckless disregard, to cause her husband severe emotional distress."

• • •

After the children were found and his wife was arrested, a colonel and chaplain had to be rounded up to tell Schenecker. He saw the two coming. Twenty-seven years in the military had taught him that a chaplain and a colonel could only be bringing terrible news.

He thought his mother had died.

When he heard the truth, he coped by going straight into full colonel mode. He had decisions to make. He had funerals to plan. "My first concern was to say farewell with respect, honor and dignity."

Although he was overseas when the shootings happened, he said they could also have happened while he was at the grocery.

There's nothing he could have done, he said.

He was a good father. He traveled, but when he was home, he never missed a game or a school event. He was always on the field with the kids.

"I was a connected dad," he said. "I was not one of those fathers who rolls into a man cave."

They had both been good parents, he said. You could tell by Calyx and Beau. They were the kind of kids who liked adults and could carry a conversation. They were military kids, who knew how to make new friends fast.

The marriage wasn't always good, he said, but neither was it always bad. Some of their best years together had been recent ones in Tampa.

Still, they had talked, off and on, about divorce.

• • •

She was diagnosed as bipolar, he said. He knew she had suicidal thoughts, and they had discussed them, but he never thought her capable of harming the children.

He now calls his wife "that woman."

Schenecker said he is "alone but not lonely." Military families from MacDill Air Force Base invite him to all the dinners he can handle. One military friend flew from Germany for the funerals. He gets e-mails and letters from bases all over the world.

He spoke Sunday in a colonel's cool, professional demeanor for an hour and a half. But as the subject again returned to fatherhood, and the loss of that, his eyes began to redden. His voice choked. He said he has no desire to start a new life, meet new people, change anything.

He wants to keep going to those games, to keep coaching, keep seeing his children's friends who come up to him on practice fields to share a memory. "The kids are amazing," he said, "They come to me with dignity and honor and love."

So on he goes, from 5K run to soccer match to track meet. He keeps up his kids' Facebook pages.

There's a difference, he said, between moving forward and moving on. He's moving forward, but doesn't want to move on.

"My loss is total."

But as a father, he said, "I will keep the loss alive in my heart."

John Barry can be reached at jbarry@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Schenecker father sues wife suspected of murdering their children 05/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 8:09am]

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