TIME Crime

Florida Mom Convicted of Murdering Her 2 Teenage Kids

Julie Schenecker Convicted Murder
With the jury in deliberations, Julie Schenecker is escorted from Judge Emmett Lamar Battles' courtroom on May 15, 2014 in Tampa. Daniel Wallace—Zuma Press

Julie Schenecker of Tampa will face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility for parole for killing her teens in 2011.

A Florida woman was convicted Thursday of two counts of first-degree murder for killing her two teenaged kids. Jurors rejected an insanity plea for Julie Schenecker, a former Army linguist from Tampa who shot her 16-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son in 2011.

Schenecker will face a mandatory life sentence. She will not be eligible for parole.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Schenecker’s attorney’s argued that she was medicated and suffering from depression and bipolar disorder at the time of the killings. The prosecutor, however, said she deliberately drove 27 miles to purchase the gun she eventually used to kill her children. On Thursday, a jury of her peers agreed with the prosecution.

Following the conviction, a visibly distraught Schenecker addressed the court. “Your honor I’m prepared and I accept your sentence,” she said through tears, before taking responsibility for shooting her teens, Calyx and Beau. “I apologize. I apologize to every in this courtroom.”

“I know our children are in heaven,” she said. “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 heaven has to offer.”

TIME Infectious Disease

2 Hospital Workers Treating MERS Patient Show Virus-Like Symptoms

Ken Michaels
Ken Michaels MD talks at a Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) press conference at Dr. Phillips hospital on May 13, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. Reinhold Matay—AP

Flu-like respiratory symptoms have been seen in health care workers exposed to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome patient in Orlando, Fla. A total of 20 are being tested for the disease

Two health care workers at the Orlando, Fla. hospital treating a confirmed Middle East Respiratory Sydrome patient are showing symptoms associated with the virus.

Dr. P. Phillips Hospital, where the MERS patient is being treated, confirmed to TIME that two health workers are experiencing flu-like symptoms. One has been hospitalized, while the other is currently isolated at their home, and is being monitored. Neither has yet been diagnosed with MERS, the hospital said.

A total of 20 health care workers at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital are now undergoing testing for MERS after being exposed to the patient, the hospital confirmed to TIME. The virus is not a severe risk to the general public, but human transmission appears to happen among people who interact with those who are infected, typically in a health care setting.

Like the first patient in Indiana, the new patient lives in Saudi Arabia and is a health care worker there. The patient flew from Jeddah to London, and then to Boston, before traveling to Atlanta and finally Orlando to visit family. The patient started feeling ill during the flight from Jeddah to London, and had symptoms like fever, chills and a slight cough. The patient visited the emergency room at an Orange County hospital, and was isolated.

MERS is a respiratory virus that is in the same family as the common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The disease appeared two years ago in Saudi Arabia, and to date, there are over 500 total cases, and over 100 deaths. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the risk to Americans is extremely low, and there are currently no travel restrictions in place.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said earlier today that President Obama has been briefed on the two cases of MERS in the U.S, and that the White House is “watching this very closely.”

The MERS patient is Florida is said to be in stable condition, and the first patient in Indiana has already been discharged from the hospital.

TIME Infectious Disease

Officials Confirm Second U.S. Case of MERS

This undated file electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colorized in yellow.
This undated file electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows novel coronavirus particles, also known as the MERS virus, colorized in yellow. AP

Health officials have confirmed a second case of the MERS in an Orange County hospital less than two weeks after the first appeared in Indiana. They told reporters the newly infected patient is a health care provider who lives and works in Saudi Arabia

Updated 3 p.m. ET

Federal and state health officials confirmed a second U.S. case of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome on Monday, less than two weeks after the country’s first case appeared in an Indiana hospital.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health told reporters the newly infected patient is a health care provider who lives and works in Saudi Arabia. The person flew from Jeddah to London, and then to Boston. From there, the patient traveled to Atlanta and then Orlando to visit family members, officials said.

The person began feeling unwell during the flight from Jeddah to London—suffering from symptoms like a fever, chills and a slight cough—and then continued to feel ill on subsequent flights, officials said. The person went to the emergency room of a hospital in Orange County on May 8 and was admitted the same day. The patient was then placed in isolation, and remains in stable condition.

John Armstrong, Florida’s state surgeon general and secretary of health, said the patient’s family was “staying home” at the moment and that the hospital would release more information later Monday.

Officials said they are reaching out to anyone who may have had close contact with the patient before the person entered the hospital. That includes more than 500 people who were on the patient’s last few flights in the U.S.

On desktop, roll over this graphic to get a closer look; on mobile, click to zoom.

Heather Jones

The first U.S. case of MERS appeared in Indiana in late April after having popped up in more than a dozen countries around the world. That patient is currently in good condition at Community Hospital in northern Munster and is expected to be released in the near future. The unnamed victim is a hospital worker in Saudi Arabia, home to about 450 lab-confirmed cases and 118 deaths.

The patient in Indiana, who was on a planned visit to see family, was placed in full isolation and all staff members who had contact with him previously have tested negative for the disease. Health officials have been contacting people who might have come into contact with the patient on public transport.

MERS is in the same virus family as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 700 people about a decade ago. It has no vaccine or treatment, but researchers believe it may have originated from bats or camels. Human transmission has so far largely occurred between people with close contact with those infected, especially in health care settings. To date, there have been at least 538 confirmed cases and 145 deaths.

TIME Crime

If You Lost Your Coffin Full of Weapons, Florida Police Have Recovered It

166011931
Weapon symbols Getty Images

From nunchucks to crossbows

Well this is weird. Police found an abandoned wooden coffin filled with 43 weapons — ranging from ball-and-chains to nunchucks — by the side of the road in Florida late last week. Weapon arsenals can be so hard to keep track of these days!

Here are the 43 bizarre weapons that a sad Floridian is currently missing, according to a local Fox affiliate:

  • Black crossbow
  • Black ball and chain
  • Set of nun chucks
  • Metal pair of forceps
  • Ball with metal spikes
  • Double-sided axe with handle
  • Baseball bat with numerous screws attached
  • Small black sheath
  • Scissors, silver in color
  • Wooden handle with attached metal hook
  • Wooden handle with attached metal knife
  • Plastic tube with black handles
  • Wide black metal hook
  • Black folding knife
  • 2 black arm weights
  • Broken yellow dart
  • Silver baseball bat
  • Small wooden handle with attached knife
  • Black metal crowbar
  • Silver antenna
  • Black metal hooks
  • Black sword sheathe
  • Silver metal chain
  • Black handle with attached long knife
  • Wooden handle with attached rusted knife blade
  • Black stick with attached chain
  • Single metal hook
  • 2 wooden metal hatchets
  • Silver boat anchor
  • Black fire poker
  • Black metal crowbar
  • Pair of blacksmith pliers
  • Silver metal sword blade with missing hand grip
  • Wooden blocking stick
  • Metal hammer
  • Double sickle handle
  • Single handle sickle
  • Large pair of black metal tongs
  • 2 wooden axe handles
  • Wooden sword

Non-weapons included:

  • Black hoodie
  • Small red square punching bag
  • Black leather pouch

Just go to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to claim your goods!

TIME animals

This Giant, Pink Goblin Shark Caught in Gulf of Mexico Will Haunt Your Dreams

This creature was caught on April 19 off the coast of Key West, Florida. Carl Moore—Courtesy of NOAA

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

Last month, while working in the Gulf of Mexico, a crew of fishermen accidentally caught a very rare (and very terrifying) beast.

The crew had cast a net 2,000 feet into the water just off the coast of Key West, Fla., and noticed a peculiar creature mixed in with their usual load of shrimp, the Houston Chronicle reports.

“I didn’t even know what it was,” lifelong fisherman Carl Moore told the Chronicle. “I didn’t get the tape measure out because that thing’s got some wicked teeth, they could do some damage.”

This creature, it turned out, was a rare goblin shark, estimated to be about 18 feet long. Moore snapped a few photos before hoisting the creature back into the sea (yes, it’s still out there). Though More and his crew caught the shark on Apr. 19, they didn’t report it to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration until last week.

“This is great news,” John Carlson, NOAA shark expert, told the Chronicle. “This is only the second confirmed sighting in the Gulf, the majority of specimens are found off Japan or in the Indian Ocean and around South Africa.”

So when that razor-toothed pink monster haunts your dreams tonight, at least you can console yourself with a reminder that this is good news for science.

TIME

Pictures of the Week: April 25 – May 2

From tornadoes and floods across the US to the canonization of two popes, to preparations for the Kentucky Derby and witches on a train, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME States

Florida Inches Closer to Passing Immigrant In-State Tuition Bill

Florida senators voted in favor of a bill to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for the same in-state tuition rate at public universities that U.S. citizens do. Representatives are due to approve several minor changes before Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign it into law

Florida is on track to be the latest state to offer the children of undocumented immigrants residential rates on tuition at public universities, after a bill cleared the senate on Thursday.

Following a highly charged debate on the floor where lawmakers quoted the likes of Langston Hughes and Aristotle, Florida senators voted 26-13 in favor of the legislation, according to the Associated Press. If the bill is signed into law, Florida would be the 20th state in the Union to offer in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

Governor Rick Scott called the passage of the bill through the senate “historic.”

“It’s an exciting day for every student that dreams of a college education,” he said at an impromptu press conference. “Children who grow up in this state now get the same tuition as their peers.”

Scott is up for re-election at the end of the year but currently lags 10 points behind his Democratic opponent and former governor Charlie Crist, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday. Analysts say he is attempting to curry favor with the state’s large Latino population.

And more than a dozen fellow Republicans were less than enthused about potentially losing out on an estimated $50 million if the bill is implemented.

“I know it feels good giving benefits away,” said Republican Senator Aaron Bean. “We are giving so many benefits to noncitizens … Does it matter even being an American citizen anymore?”

The bill is now headed back to the house, where representatives will vote to approve the minor changes in the senate before it is sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

If approved, undocumented students would pay the same tuition rates as residents if they have attended a Florida school for at least three years prior to graduating from high school.

[AP]

TIME States

Gas Explosion at Pensacola Jail Kills 2, Injures More Than 100

A gas explosion ripped through a Florida correctional facility after severe rains deluged the southeast, killing two and injuring more than 100 inmates and staff. More than 400 other inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties

A gas explosion at a Pensacola jail killed at least two and injured more than 100 inmates and correctional staff Wednesday night — one day after historic floodwaters devoured roads and ruined homes across the panhandle.

The explosion reportedly erupted at about 11 p.m. local time near the facility’s book center, causing part of the structure to collapse, according to the Associated Press. There’s no word if the accident was caused by the week’s heavy storms, which did flood portions of the jail.

The injured were taken to hospitals and more than 400 uninjured inmates were transferred to jails in neighboring counties.

On Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 counties and called on state and local agencies to respond rapidly to the needs of affected families.

“We’re continuing to work with local leaders on the ground to give them the support they need to keep families safe and get them back on their feet,” he said in a statement.

“To support our local leaders, early this morning I instructed the National Guard to deploy 24 high-water vehicles to the impacted counties to assist with rescue and recovery operations.”

At least one woman in Pensacola, Florida, died after her car was swept into a drainage ditch, according to authorities.

On Tuesday night, more than 15 in. of rain fell before midnight at Pensacola Airport — setting a new record for the rainiest single day in the area.

“We’ve seen flooding before, but never flooding that washes the back of a house away,” said CNN iReporter Matt Raybourn of Pensacola. “There are no words for what we are seeing here.”

Elsewhere in Escambia County, local officials responded to 281 emergencies while fire rescue teams answered more than 266 pleas for help on Wednesday. According to the county’s official website, the local 911 dispatch received more than 4,000 calls between the start of the emergency at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The behemoth three-day storm system cut through large swaths of the Great Plains and South as tornadoes, hail and floods left more than 30 people dead.

TIME poverty

Disney World Has a Homeless Problem

Merida's Royal Celebration
Magic Kingdom on May 11, 2013 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Gerardo Mora—WireImage

Some employees at the Disney World theme park and many others at local businesses in Florida's Osceola County reportedly say they can't afford the area's average $800 per month rent making $8.03 an hour

Updated 11:56 a.m. on April 28

Those employees at the happiest place on earth? Some of them are homeless parents, according to the Associated Press. Many Walt Disney World employees cannot afford the average $800 per month rent while being paid a starting minimum pay of $8.03 per hour working at the park. Meanwhile, any one person pays about $100 just for admission to Orlando’s theme parks.

1,216 families in Florida’s Osceola County are living out of hotels because they cannot afford to live anywhere else and because the county does not have any shelters. Many small hotel owners—running mom-and-pop businesses—have complained to the county sheriff that families are overcrowding rooms and unable to pay long-term. Some have even filed lawsuits. (Larger, more expensive hotels that house many of the tourists visiting Disney World don’t have to deal with the same issue.)

Advocates blame the problem on low wages and comparatively high rent given those salaries in the 300,000 person county. According to census figures, the median income in Osceola County is just $24,128 a year.

A Disney spokesperson said it’s “a stretch to make a connection between our strong collective bargaining offer to Cast Members and the homeless issue in Central Florida.”

“Walt Disney World is actively involved with community organizations to help address homelessness in Central Florida and its underlying causes,” spokesperson Jacquee Polak. “Our efforts range from financial contributions and in-kind support to volunteer service.”

 

Walt Disney World, the area’s largest employer, may end up forking over more money (up to $10) to its employees as contracts are being negotiated with the resort’s biggest union group.

[AP]

TIME 2014 Election

The Republican Woman Loses, Again

Lizbeth Benacquisto
Lizbeth Benacquisto, facing, hugs supporters after losing to opponent Curt Clawson in the special Congressional District 19 Republican primary during her election night party in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. AP Photo/Naples Daily News, Carolina Hidalgo

It's starting to look like the GOP won't have many female candidates left standing by November

Voters in a Florida congressional district went to the polls Tuesday to elect a new representative following Trey Radel’s resignation this year after pleading guilty to cocaine possession. The winner was millionaire businessman and Tea Party darling Curt Clawson, who self-funded his campaign to the tune of $2.65 million. But the story of who won isn’t much of a surprise: A rich, white Tea Partier is not a new breed in Washington these days. It’s the story of who lost that’s more telling for the GOP: Florida state Senate Majority Leader Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Benacquisto was the establishment favorite for the seat and had the most political experience by far. Her supporters in Tallahassee spent almost $300,000 in Super PAC money to help get her elected and she received money from Republican Reps. Aaron Schock and Jason Chaffetz. Not to mention former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came and campaigned for her.

But while she raised almost $1 million in less than three months, Benacquisto couldn’t compete with Clawson’s self-funding. Nor could she keep pace with the nastiness of the special election.

During a midterm election cycle in which establishment candidates are generally beating back Tea Party challengers, it’s striking how many female House GOP candidates have lost primaries or are trailing in both polls and in fundraising. In statewide elections this year, Republicans have succeeded in attracting a host of qualified women who are running strong campaigns. But House candidates continue to lag. To date, House Republicans have 33% less women running this cycle than in 2012.

Theoretically, Benacquisto should have gotten help from Project GROW, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s push announced last year to help elect women. But that program has done little since failing to help Kathleen Peters, a Florida lawmaker, win a primary in another special election earlier this year. And the NRCC’s director of strategic initiatives and coalitions, Bettina Inclan, who ran Project GROW, made a rare mid-cycle jump from the NRCC earlier this month to a Florida consulting firm. Jessica Furth Johnson, the NRCC’s deputy executive director and general counsel, has taken over running to program, according to NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

As I wrote earlier this week in a story about another neglected female House candidate, highly qualified Republican women are struggling to break through in House races this cycle. Female lawmakers on the state level tend to be more moderate and thus have a harder time competing in highly gerrymandered districts where primaries favor the most conservative candidate. And even if they are as conservative, women candidates also tend to be less bombastic, making it tough to break through on a rhetorical level. “The NRCC doesn’t endorse candidates in primaries,” Bozek says. “We work with all candidates in competitive races put together strong campaigns.”

At this rate, there won’t be many Republican women left standing come November.

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