TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A house cleaner and a psychiatrist testified Friday that a Tampa woman accused of fatally shooting her two teenagers was prescribed a cocktail of psychiatric drugs and other medications and showed increasingly depressive and unusual behavior.
Defense attorneys have said Julie Schenecker suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. Michelle Frisco, a house cleaner, and Demian Obregon, a University of South Florida psychiatrist who treated Schenecker, were key defense witnesses to establish Schenecker's mental state. She has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Schenecker, 53, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killing of her 16-year old daughter, Calyx, and 13-year-old son, Beau. They were killed while her husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, was deployed in the Middle East. If convicted, she would receive a life sentence. If acquitted by reason of insanity, she would be committed to a hospital until she is no longer a danger to herself or others.
Obregon said he met and talked by phone with Schenecker a handful of times over six months, ending about a month before the shootings.
He noted Schenecker's condition became increasingly depressed and she suffered side effects from the different medications she was prescribed to combat bipolar disorder.
Obregon noted Schenecker had limited coping skills, limited insight and strained family relations during a visit six weeks before the killings. At the time, Obregon noted Schenecker could be potentially dangerous to herself and others and possibly committed to a mental hospital for three days under state law.
Frisco said Schenecker did not seem the same after she returned from rehab in November 2010. Pill bottles were often scattered across a bedside table and Schenecker acted increasingly unusual at times, staying in her pajamas in bed. Holiday decorations stayed up longer than in years past, Frisco said.
Frisco cleaned the Schenecker house for two years, starting while the family still was unpacking and moving in. Frisco last saw Schenecker Jan. 26, 2011, two days before the defendant was found passed out and her children slain and her last day of cleaning for the family.
That day, Frisco came in the house and Schenecker was on the patio smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee. She came in as she normally would, put her coffee mug in the sink and mumbled something about going to the doctor and some other errands before going upstairs to take a shower and get dressed, Frisco said.
The last room Frisco cleaned was the master bedroom, where Schenecker had seemingly gotten ready. However, rather than leave, Schenecker was sitting up in her bed, fully clothed, with her eyes closed, Frisco said.
Frisco finished cleaning, left the key, picked up her check and did not plan her next visit with Schenecker, as she usually did. Frisco did not find out about the slayings until a few days later.