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Psychologists Retained by State and Defense to Evaluate New Tampa Mother Accused of Murdering Children

Prosecutors in Hillsborough Countywill have state-retained psychologists evaluate Julie Schenecker, in order to offer an opinion to the court as to the New Tampa mother’s mental state at the time of the fatal shooting her two children in 2011. Schenecker is charged with first-degree murder and faces the death penalty if convicted.

A judge approved the state’s request at a hearing last week. Schenecker has already been evaluated by psychologists hired by her defense attorney, according to a motion filed by the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege Schenecker shot her two children, Calyx and Beau, on Jan. 27, 2011. She shot Beau, 13, after driving him home from soccer practice, according to police reports. She then went upstairs and shot 16-year-old Calyx as she did homework. Schenecker, who has a history of mental illness, told police she was tired of them talking back. Schenecker’s husband, an Army colonel, was deployed to the Middle East when the children were shot and killed.

Schenecker’s defense lawyers intend to use an insanity defense. They say that, at the time of the shootings, Schenecker was being treated for depression, bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Detectives found numerous prescribed medications in the house.

At trial, it is likely that both sides will present testimony from expert witnesses who have evaluated Schenecker’s mental state and history. Those witnesses will be allowed to present their expert opinions based on facts they learned during their evaluation and review of the case. It is ultimately though the jury who will determine whether to return a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. They will be guided by specific jury instructions to help them deliberate on the matter.

The trial is scheduled for October.

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