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Tampa mother accused of killing two kids hospitalized in intensive care unit

TAMPA — As her two children were mourned and remembered with Facebook pages and makeshift memorials, Julie Schenecker spent Saturday at Tampa General Hospital in the intensive care unit.

Schenecker, who told police she fatally shot her daughter and son, was admitted to the hospital shortly before midnight Friday for "treatment of a medical condition that existed prior to being brought to jail," the Hills­borough County Sheriff's Office said. No further details were released.

Schenecker's first court appearance, scheduled for Saturday, was postponed. Her public defender said she was in the intensive care unit.

The shooting evoked memories of Susan Smith and Andrea Yates, mothers who killed their children, and prompted thousands of mournful messages on Facebook pages. Others visited a memorial for Calyx, 16, and Powers Beau, 13, at the gates of the Tampa Palms neighborhood where the Scheneckers live.

They "didn't deserve this," Beau's friend Jordan Gaias wrote in a card he left at memorial, which grew Saturday with balloons, candles and more than 20 bouquets. Someone left copies of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in memory of Calyx, who was a fan.

The "Official Calyx & Beau Schenecker Memorial" Facebook page urged King High School students to wear Harry Potter clothing on Monday for Calyx, a sophomore in the school's pre-International Baccalaureate program. Liberty Middle School students were asked to wear blue, Beau's favorite color.

Other pages condemned Julie Schenecker, 50, as a murderer while many people struggled between anger and sadness, trying to understand why.

Police found the mother of two at the Tampa Palms home Friday with her children's blood on her clothes. Schenecker told police she was sick of her teenagers talking back so she bought a .38-caliber pistol to kill them and commit suicide.

An arrest affidavit says Schenecker picked up her son from soccer practice Thursday, shot him twice, walked upstairs and then shot her daughter as she did homework.

The children's father, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, 48, is assigned to U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa but was in the Middle East at the time. It was unclear Saturday if he had returned to Tampa.

Deployments don't typically put enough stress on a spouse to prompt severe violence, especially with older children able to care for themselves, said Phillip Resnick, a Case Western Reserve University psychiatry professor who has studied murders by parents for more than 40 years.

Julie Schenecker's mother had told police that her daughter was depressed. She shook uncontrollably after arrest and was seen mumbling unintelligibly.

Mothers who kill their children aren't always mentally ill, Resnick said. "The majority go to prison rather than being found legally insane," he said.

There are typically five motives for mothers who commit homicide, Resnick said.

The first is altruistic, where a depressed mother believes her children are better off in heaven with her. Those cases don't typically involve teens.

Other mothers suffer from an acute psychotic condition where they have distorted views of their children, sometimes believing they are worse than they are or possessed. "In this case, we can't be sure of it but unless a full examination is done," Resnick said, "we can't rule it out."

Some who batter or strangle go too far thinking they were punishing their kids. Some killed because their children are unwanted and in their way.

Those scenarios typically involve young children, Resnick said. And some kill their children to get revenge on their spouses.

Resnick said some women don't finish their suicidal plan because they spent too much mental energy killing their kids. "It alters their mental state and they have less of a need to follow through," he said.

On Saturday, in an hourlong grieving session filled with tears and littered with tissue boxes, nearly 40 teens gathered at the St. James Methodist Church in Tampa Palms.

The group included some of Calyx's former classmates from Benito Middle School as well as friends from King and more than a dozen Liberty Middle School students who knew Beau.

Church pastors broke the teens and parents into small groups where they shared memories of Beau and Calyx.

"She was exceptionally sweet. She was respectful," said Jeff Halle, 31, who taught Calyx freshman English at King High School and sponsored the Harry Potter Club she was active in. "She was the kind of girl that if I had a daughter and I could pick, I would choose."

On Facebook, people remembered the cross country girl who dreamed of prestigious colleges and a boy who made friends playing soccer and Call of Duty.

"I only knew him when we played online," Ontario teen Abraham Neranjan told the Times. "But I know for a fact that he was an enthusiastic and generous kid. It was a true pleasure and honor to be his friend."

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Tampa mother accused of killing two kids hospitalized in intensive care unit 01/29/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 31, 2011 10:31pm]
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