TAMPA, Fla. – A Tampa woman on trial for killing her two teenagers while her Army officer husband was overseas yelled "Liar!" at a psychiatrist who was testifying Friday that he had told her not to drink while taking drugs to control her bipolar disorder.
Julie Schenecker lashed out at Dr. Demian Obregon from the defense table after he said he had warned her that the alcohol-drug combination could be deadly. She interjected that he had approved her having a couple drinks.
Judge Emmett Battles immediately stopped the hearing, ordered the jury out and admonished Schenecker, telling her she would be restrained if she had another outburst. She slowly nodded "yes" when asked if she understood.
Defense attorneys have said that besides bipolar disorder, the defendant suffered from depression. Obregon, a University of South Florida psychiatrist who treated Schenecker, is a key defense witness 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, and the couple has since divorced.
If convicted, Julie Schenecker 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 Julie 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.
Schenecker's housekeeper, Michelle Frisco, also testified Friday that 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.
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.