Tampa mom pleads not guilty to killing her teens

TAMPA — Three weeks after police said she killed her two children, Tampa Palms mother Julie Schenecker answered formally to charges of first-degree murder at her arraignment in Hillsborough court.

Chained at the waist, hands and legs, she was walked into the courtroom, held at each arm by a deputy. When they sat her in a chair, she stared ahead. When the judge entered, Schenecker closed her eyes and breathed deep.

Almost a dozen deputies stood guard, out of caution considering the national attention garnered by the case. They screened all who entered the courtroom.

It was the first time she appeared in person since her Jan. 28 arrest, after which cameras captured her shaking in the arms of police.

On Wednesday, her public defender, Robert Fraser, pleaded not guilty on her behalf.

Fraser said Schenecker completed a financial affidavit of indigence for the clerk to review to consider her eligibility for a public defender. The clerk's office decided she did not qualify, but Circuit Judge Ashley Moody had the final say and took into consideration the cost of a defense of this magnitude — it could reach $250,000 — and the fact that Schenecker is incarcerated.

Moody asked Fraser if he was aware if anyone was helping her accumulate assets to fund a private defense.

He said no.

Moody appointed the public defender's office, which plans to ask the judge to impose a lien on Schenecker's assets, which will likely include her marital assets.

Her husband, Army Col. Parker Schenecker, was not present at the hearing. Fraser said he has made contact with him and "he is aware of what is going on."

The colonel was on duty overseas when police say Schenecker, 50, fatally shot her two teenagers after school on Jan. 27, as part of a premeditated plan she described as a "massacre."

Calyx was 16. Beau was 13.

Prosecutors have not yet announced whether they will seek the death penalty.

After the hearing a family spokesman issued this statement:

"Colonel Parker Schenecker is currently out of the state and was unable to attend Wednesday's arraignment for Julie Schenecker. Currently, he is meeting with family members and close friends to formalize his plans to honor the memory of Calyx and Beau. At the same time, he is considering the best path to help him heal from this tragedy.

"Parker would like to thank everyone who has reached out to express their love for Calyx and Beau and who have shown support for his family during this difficult time. The generosity and love supporters have shown through letters, phone calls and donations to the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Memorial Fund has been humbling.

"Parker has finalized plans for the fund's first donation: C. Leon King High School's Relay for Life benefiting the American Cancer Society. Calyx's school recently notified Parker that they will honor Calyx by retaining her as captain of her Harry Potter-inspired "Wizarding Independence Day" team. This contribution is just the first step in keeping his promise to support those causes and activities his children found important."