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GUILTY: Tampa jury finds Julie Schenecker sane when she murdered kids

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A Hillsborough County jury has found Julie Schenecker guilty of first-degree murder. A short time later, the judge sentenced her to life in prison without parole.

Julie Schenecker, 53, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of her two children, 16-year-old Calyx Schenecker and 13-year-old Beau Schenecker, in the family’s New Tampa home on January 27, 2011.

Eight days of chilling evidence dug into the state of mind of the killer, and after only two hours of deliberations, the jury of 12 people found Schenecker guilty of first-degree murder.

Julie Schenecker spoke to the court before her sentencing.

"I'm prepared and accept your sentence," she sobbed. "My apologies to everyone in courtroom, the lives I have destroyed."

"Not just people in this courtroom," she continued. "Anyone who knew Calyx and Beau; friends, teachers, coaches, relatives, aunts, cousins, grandparents, uncles, everyone who has been so deeply affected. And I understand there are people who may have just read about this in the paper. I know child will look at their mommy and say 'are you ever gonna shoot me?'"

The emotional, chilling words continued: "I take responsibility. I was there, I know I shot my son and daughter. I don’t know why."

Julie Schenecker then thanked her country and judicial system.

"I am proud to stand before you. Our judicial system is the best in the world," she told Judge Emmett Battles. "I trust in you and what you've done. You run court very well. I will never be able to repay all these people but say thank you. Thank you to American judicial system."

Judge Battles then sentenced her to two sentences of life without parole, and she was led out of the courtroom.

The state took the death penalty sentence off the table earlier this year.

Julie Schenecker and her family appeared very emotional, crying in court when the verdict was read.

Parker Schenecker, her husband, gave a statement to the media after sentencing, saying in part: "While this decision doesn't bring my children back, it does give my family an opportunity to move forward."

This murder case was not a question if Julie Schenecker killed her kids, but why?

The prosecution claimed the murders were calculated and planned due to anger at her family and hurt from her children becoming "mouthy." Prosecutors say Schenecker had a clear mindset and knew the wrongfulness of her actions. The crime was detailed in a journal kept by Julie Schenecker found at the murder scene.

The defense argued Schenecker wasn’t aware of the difference between right and wrong and delusional thinking that she was saving her children from the misery of life led to her killing them, as part of a plan to commit suicide.

Under Florida law, to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense must prove Schenecker involuntarily committed the crimes because of mental illness, in addition, did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the offense.

There was no dispute between the state and the defense that Schenecker was mentally ill. She had battled depression throughout her life and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychotic features by numerous doctors.

Breaking evidence was heard during the case as the jury tried to understand Julie Schenecker's state of mind in the days leading up to, and the night, she killed her kids. Evidence included a taped confession during her interview with police after she was arrested, personal journal entries, crime scene photos, testimony from ex-husband Parker Schenecker, and from several mental health experts and law enforcement.

Police found the bodies of the teens the morning of January 28, 2011. Calyx had been shot in her head and mouth and found dead in her bed. Beau had been shot in the head and mouth on the way to soccer practice. Schenecker’s intention –both the state and defense agreed – was to also kill herself; however, she passed out from an overdose on drugs and alcohol before she was able to.

Schenecker cried often through testimony, as her history of depression and mania were described. Her family sat behind her in the courtroom for most of the trial.

In closing arguments Thursday, Prosecutor Jay Pruner said Schenecker had a "long standing plan to kill her children" and a plan that she took deliberate and extensive steps to execute. Pruner suggested her motive was anger and resentment toward her husband, saying she intended him to come home and find his family dead.

The state painted a picture of a woman desperate and determined to kill her children detailed by the defendant herself in which she wrote about a “Saturday massacre” in the days leading up the crimes.

Defense attorney Jennifer Spradley says her journal is riddled with psychotic thoughts. She said Schenecker didn’t choose her illness but the illness chose her.

Spradley said the reason Schenecker never committed suicide was because she didn't want to hurt her children. Yet a psychotic plan to kill all three of them together developed.

"Her plan was to save them, to be together in Heaven, it’s not about anger," Spradley told the jury. "She has history of being good mother and person trying to get better until everything fell apart. This is biological disaster. Her brain is working against her."

Read about today's closing arguments here.

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