TAMPA — For the first time since the deaths of his two teenage children, Parker Schenecker is speaking about his wife, who has been charged with their murder.
"We were a typical American family," he told People magazine, "but we had a sick member."
He said his wife, Julie Schenecker, had suffered from depression since before they were married. When it hit, he said, she would have low energy, ignore housekeeping duties and meal preparation and stay in bed for much of the day.
"I never had any indication that she would harm the children, or that she would ever think of taking the children's lives. It was absolutely incredible when I found out she did. …
"Julie was a fantastic mother early on when the kids were needing nursing and nurturing. … They gave her a lot of joy; it gave me a lot of joy watching her with the kids."
He said he convinced her to check into inpatient rehab after he suspected she had substance abuse issues in November. "I did everything I could think of to do," said Schenecker, a colonel in the Army.
He said family life became more stable when she returned home after a week. They had a peaceful Christmas and he witnessed her get into a playful sponge fight with the kids.
His military work took him overseas Jan. 19.
Her last e-mail message to him, on the day police believe her children died, included these statements:
Get home soon …
We're all waiting for you.
Tampa police say the Tampa Palms North mother shot Beau, 13, and Calyx, 16, after school on Jan. 27. They say she had been planning it for days.
Parker Schenecker described his first jail meeting with his wife after her arrest:
"I walked in and said, 'How about we do this: Let's not talk about anything that happened in the house,' " Schenecker told People.
"She said, 'Yeah, that would be great.' "
He spoke about a memorial service and their burial, and toward the end of the visit, told her, "I am going to look you in the eye and tell you that I am going to seek a divorce."
He did. The divorce, and the criminal resolution, are pending.
Prosecutors have until Aug. 15 to announce whether they will pursue the death penalty. Public defenders have until then to determine whether they will pursue an insanity defense.
"I don't hate Julie," Parker Schenecker told People. "I feel for her. I'm going through my hell; she's going through her own hell."
Schenecker has said he will spend the rest of his life honoring his children. The Times shadowed him last month at King High School's Relay for Life when he took his first steps toward that goal.
He told People he is eager to move out of the house the four shared.
He said it is too big for him.