Hot Docs: Florida husband sues ex-wife over murder of two children

June 2, 2011

Tampa FloridaA Florida husband and wife are now in a lawsuit on opposing sides.

However, this is a tragic departure from a divorce case, which finds this opposition typical.

Instead, the husband is suing his now ex-wife for wrongful death and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED).

The facts presented in the complaint are heart-breaking.

Parker and Julie Schenecker were a husband and wife living in Florida.  They had two children: a daughter, Calyx, and a son, Beau.

Parker and Julie were both members of the U.S. Army, but after the birth of Calyx, Julie left the army to stay home to raise the kids.

Parker was deployed to Afghanistan on January 19, 2011, and arrived two days later.

He immediately let his family know that he had arrived safely.

Shortly thereafter, according to the complaint, Julie went to purchase a handgun.  Because of Florida’s mandatory three day waiting period, she had to return later to pick up the purchased gun.

Hot Doc: Schenecker v. Schenecker

Source: Westlaw News & Insight – National Litigation

Between January 21 and January 26, Parker had several communications (emails, Skype, telephone) with his family, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

On January 27, Parker began his return to the U.S., making a short layover in Qatar.

The same day, Beau had soccer practice, to which Julie drove him.

En route, though, Julie took out the gun she purchased, and shot the windshield of the minivan.

Frightened, Beau told her to put the gun away, and Julie shot him several times in the head, killing him.

Julie then returned home, went upstairs to find Calyx on the computer, and shot her from behind in the back of the head, and then again in the face, killing her.

Beau was 13 years old, and Calyx was 16.

Perplexingly, Julie then immediately sent emails to Parker, telling him that the family was waiting for him, and giving updates on the kids’ grades.

The next day, Parker, still in Qatar, was informed by Army personnel that his wife had murdered his two children.

Julie’s criminal case is currently still pending.

This civil case is brought against Julie by Parker on the claims mentioned above.

The wrongful death claims are almost a sure-win.

The IIED claim is a different story.

While there shouldn’t be any real question as to whether the claim fulfills the required elements, there’s an additional factor that is rarely dealt with in these cases and could complicate the claim.

Namely, it’s the fact that Parker was not present at the murders.

Traditionally, a plaintiff would have needed to be present at the event causing severe emotional distress to prevail on the claim.

However, there are several instances in recent Florida case law that have bucked that trend.

While the issue isn’t very well developed, those past cases do suggest that the presence of strong familial bonds may be sufficient to prevail on claims in circumstances where the plaintiff only learns of the traumatic event after the fact.

Given this, it is very likely that Parker would prevail on his claim.

In the end, though, all that would amount to is some additional monetary damages.

Considering Parker’s family has been destroyed, I doubt a little more money is going to make any difference.

(Editor’s note: Calyx and Beau Shenecker have a Facebook memorial page here, and another unofficial one here.)