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Julie Schenecker is led into Judge Emmett Lamar Battles' courtroom on Thursday, May 15, 2014 for closing arguments in her murder trial. Schenecker, 53, is accused of killing her two teenage children Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13, in 2011. The jury began deliberations Thursday afternoon. They will dedice whether a former Army officer's wife knew what she was doing when she killed her two teenagers or whether she was insane at the time and couldn't tell right from wrong. / Tampa Bay Times, Daniel Wallace

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - A 53-year-old former military linguist and longtime Army officer's wife was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder with jurors rejecting the argument that she was legally insane when she shot and killed her 13-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter more than three years ago.

Julie Schenecker wiped her nose and eyes, then the bailiffs handcuffed her as the verdict was read after just over an hour of deliberations. She started to cry. She was sentenced to two life terms to be served simultaeously.

Schenecker, killed her daughter, Calyx, and son, Beau, in January 2011 while her now ex-Army officer husband, Col. Parker Schenecker, was on a 10-day deployment to the Middle East.

Before the judge sentenced her, Schenecker said she takes responsibility for what she's done.

Through tears she said, "I know I shot my son and daughter. I don't know why. But I have time to try to understand that."

If she had been acquitted by reason of insanity, she would have been committed to a mental hospital until doctors and a judge agreed that she was no longer a danger to herself or others.

She also said she believed in the U.S. judicial system and would accept her sentence.

Earlier, prosecutors said Schenecker wrote in her journal that she wanted to kill herself and wanted to be cremated with her children, their ashes mixed together. She mentioned that she was going to try to move her son's body into her bed and wanted to die next to him.

Before she was sentenced, she talked about her children.

"I know our children are in heaven. I want people to try to find comfort in believing as I do that they are in no pain and they are alive and enjoying everything and anything that heaven has to offer," she said. "Jesus is protecting them and keeping them safe until we get there."

Parker Schenecker and his mother looked sad and exhausted as the verdict was read. Julie Schenecker's sister cried softly.

All six mental health-experts who testified said Schenecker was mentally ill, but three experts that prosecutors called said she was legally sane when she shot her children.

Defense lawyers said Schenecker is so affected with bipolar disorder and depression that she doesn't know right from wrong. Under Florida law, the inability to tell right from wrong is one of the criteria for a not guilty by reason of insanity plea.

Her lawyer, Jennifer Spradley, told jurors they needed to consider Schenecker's state of mind when she pulled the trigger, that she was suffering from such severe depression and manic depression that she didn't understand what she was doing.

"Her mind is clouded. She didn't choose this illness. It chose her," Spradley said. "When she wasn't sick, she was a good mother."

Experts testifying for the prosecution say the longtime military wife was calculating and deliberate when she bought the .38-caliber handgun days before the killings along with more-lethal hollow bullets. But in her journal, she lamented the three-day wait for a background check, writing she had planned a weekend massacre.

Prosecutor Jay Pruner told jurors in his closings that Schenecker was "desperate, depressed, angry, but very determined." He said she was despondent over what she thought was the inevitability of divorce from her husband of 20 years.

"These were deliberate, well-planned, well-implemented and well-concealed homicides," Pruner said.



Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read the original story: Florida mom guilty of killing her teenage children

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