Sleep My Darlings
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were one in the same. Henry Jekyll would transform himself into this sadistic, cruel and evil man with the help of a special mind altering drug he created. Henry Jekyll chose his fate when creating his alter personality. One specific drug would not only change his physical appearance but would create a monster so heinous and so evil that even not hiding the fact that he committed murder and any crimes did not phase him. Depression is not the reason why he decided to experiment with a mind-altering drug. He had other reasons for wanting to see if he could change his life, his goals and his life. Jekyll was a rich doctor who was revered by his patients and society. Hiding his pleasures and sort of freeing his soul to be able to do whatever he wanted to do is one reason he created Hyde. Could Jekyll be the man who wakes up in the morning and feels his life so dull and going nowhere and whose decisions he feel conform to society? Hyde is the one through Jekyll that makes bad decisions and the guilt factor eludes him. One man inhibited by society and the other frees himself from those constraints. When you read this account of the murders of two young teens you decide for yourself whether the murderer Julie Schenecker mirrors Mr. Hyde.
Julie Schenecker was locked into life that she wanted for appearances. Two bright, intelligent and education minded children each with different interests yet academically oriented. Author Diane Fanning takes the reader back in time to where it all began by giving us the tools we need to get to know not only Julie but her husband Parker, his aspirations for success in his career and what led up to the murder of their two children. As part of a military family these children were subjected to many changes and moving from country to country, state-to-state was common. Some kids would have trouble adjusting and making friends but not Calyx or Beau. They were so special, so giving and just wanted to enjoy life, play soccer, take art classes and be normal teens. But, from the start we learn that Julie’s behavior at times was undefined in some respects. After having her second child she became depressed. Chapter One we learn about the murders, hear the voices of the police as they enter the home of his woman, find her kids in two different places, each with fatal gunshots to different parts of their bodies, and we are privy to the murder scene as graphically depicted and described by the author. Chapter’s 2- 25 sets the stage for what will happen. The author takes us through her early life, her relationship with her parents, family and friends and then leads us to when she met Parker. Their courtship was short, their marriage at first seemed solid and yet you can sense something within her personality that was not right. Meeting Julie in 1987, through her volleyball team, that she was coaching, she was thrilled when Parker signed up to participate. But, his life and his goal was to become a high-ranking officer in the armed services and throughout these chapters although he did appear to focus on his marriage his primary focus seemed to be his career. Marrying Julie in 1992 and living on many military bases both seemed to thrive. Meeting another mother, as she had Calyx at the time, she and Karen Krivo became fast friends until she moved. Moving to Hawaii then in 1997 having their second child should have brought her great joy, but it did not. It created more depression for her and she needed medication. The author does share with readers in previous chapters that this is not the first time Julie required meds for depression. More moves, other friendships and in 2001 she had a severe and “debilitating episode” of depression. She was hospitalized. This should have been a red flag for things to come. Placed in an institution to help her with her mental health, she seems well enough we learn in 2003 to be reunited with Parker and her family. But, this was truly not the case as in 2006; she was diagnosed as bi-polar, reckless behavior and false beliefs. This incident should have made not only her mental health specialists but also Parker more leery about leaving her with her children. In 2006 Parker received many awards from the army. Moving again their children had to readjust to new schools, programs and hopefully make new friends. Chapter 11 is quite enlightening as we learn more about her beliefs, her thoughts and readings and her friendship with Lorraine.
But, throughout the book you can feel the tensions rising between Julie and her daughter as the author describes many incidents when Julie was grounded her and treated her quite mean. When Calyx met three other girls in her school with the same interest in Harry Potter a trend started, club formed and they were all excited. Meeting and games were picked up and delivered by her father or another parents as she was hesitated to impose on Julie for many reasons. Calyx even hoped she would be allowed to go to boarding school to get away from her mother. As her daughter matured and was growing into a bright young lady with who understood what she wanted for her future, her mother became more disillusioned as the author relates” more disconnected from her children, and from life in general.” Why didn’t anyone notice it and why didn’t Parker protect his children?
When we begin to hear her voice, her actions quite evident, her family’s thoughts about her mental status we wonder why Parker did not realize before he went overseas again that she was unstable. Masking her symptoms, lying to herself and family members what is frightening is the fact that she was able to get a gun even after being diagnosed with mental problems. Using drugs and taking antidepressants were two reasons she should not have been granted a gun. However, no one really checked that thoroughly into her background to learn more about her personal life just whether she had a criminal record. Why didn’t anyone realize she had been arrested for child abuse? When deciding if someone should have a gun maybe they need to check to see if they are on any meds and contact their pharmacy’s or doctors. Scary but true as we hear her thoughts that must have been written in her journal for the author to be able to relate exactly how she shot Beau in her car in his left temple and then the back of her daughter’s head, mouth and other parts of her face. No remorse just proud of her efforts she even emailed her husband telling him that the three of them could not wait for his return. Yet, Parker although trying to protect his family in reality did not.
This is a chilling account of murder that if the author’s account is accurate premeditated and in cold blood. When the police arrived and saw the carnage Julie seemed almost relieved and admitted her guilt. Questioning her friends would bring certain facts to light but no one really took heed to the many red flags that should have alerted them to what happened. Sometimes we are blind and do not want to see the faults or weaknesses of others. Her brother and her family knew she was ill but yet no one saw the end result. From the reading the account it is left up to the reader, the courts and eventually the jury to decide her guilt and her punishment. Will she be able to hide become an insanity plea? What about her journal is it admissible? What about her past behavior? Is she pretending depression and what about all of those meds that certainly sound that their interactions could have caused some of her problems? Why was she so over medicated? Why wasn’t she monitored more closely? The outpouring of grief by the friends of both children and adults was sad yet as one sad that Calyx would be smiling down at everyone and wonder about the fuss.
The author’s graphic description of the murder, the autopsy, her interviews with Julie’s friends brings the murders to the present, explains the indictment, charging her with two counts of first degree murder and indicted by the grand jury. Entering a plea of not guilty her legal team is pursuing a defense on the basis that she was insane at the time. Parker’s reaction seemed like he just wanted closure and having his children buried. It was hard to tell his feelings. With the help of the school psychologist they hoped to help Beau’s friends cope with this tragedy but no one could explain or answer the question on the minds of so many WHY? Marriage dissolved, assets distributed and Julie stating her dependents as zero. It was like she divorced herself from ever having children and wanted to erase them from her life even after the murder. Within chapter 34 we learn more about the two children, their academic standings and we hear the voices of many of their teachers. But, on page 142 a statement made by a pastor will definitely anger not only the community but cast a dark cloud over Parker almost blaming him for what happened. Then, Parker’s words at the funeral are heard loud and clear.
Calyx three friends made her dream come true as the planted as special willow representing Whomping Willow in Harry Potter. A special ceremony was held and the event described in Chapter 38. Parker forged ahead and planned to live a productive life and states that he will dedicate it to the memory of his children. Many outpourings of grief and consolation from different places, lawyers and public defenders making their cases and interviews on television to highlight the murders. Filing for divorce and wrongful death were his next two steps. The divorce and how it was handled might surprise readers when you read chapter 42.
Memorials, trial decisions, the death penalty on the table and two children whose lives touched so many. The startling revelation you will read in Chapter 44 is meant to sway readers into thinking Julie was not aware of many things when married or before she married Parker. Page 177 is quite compelling and when you hear the words you hear the response of the lawyers and where they decided to lay blame. The trial is set for October 13 and Julie is in jail. The end result: ? Who is to blame Julie for murder or Parker for allowing her to care for her children knowing her illness? To learn more about mental illness and the research the author presents read the Afterword. One heart wrenching story, one cold-blooded murder, two children whose lives ended at the hand of someone who was supposed to love them. Guilty or innocent: Read Sleep My Darlings:
Let’s dedicate this review to the memory of Beau and Calyx . Fran Lewis: reviewer