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  • Mother shoots her 4-year-old twin boys
  • By Bo Rosser
  • Court TV
  • 06/01/2006 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 61 articles in 2006 )

Prosecutor: Mother shot her 4-year-old twin boys to death

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Leslie Demeniuk fired a revolver through her 4-year-old son's skull, then chased his fleeing twin brother and shot at him twice before fatally hitting him in the ear, according to prosecutors in Demeniuk's first-degree murder trial.

"She put the gun to his forehead and pulled the trigger," Assistant State Attorney Noah McKinnon said during his opening statement Friday. "There's an explosion, blood everywhere, she even found skull fragments on her body."

Demeniuk, 36, admits using a .357 Magnum given to her by her father to shoot her twin sons, James Richard and John Thomas, on March 17, 2001, but claims she is not guilty by reason of insanity.

If convicted, Demeniuk faces life in prison without parole. Prosecutors changed tack before the trial began and decided not to seek the death penalty.

The defense claims the drugs Demeniuk was taking to alleviate her anxiety and depression backfired and instead exacerbated her condition. The combination of prescription drugs - Paxil and Xanax - mixed with bourbon and beer created a mind-altering cocktail that put the mother of two in such a state she did not understand her actions when she shot her sons.

"When she was taking these medicines and experiencing these side effects, the evidence will show, Leslie did not decide to kill her children in the ordinary sense that you and I would decide to go buy a car or pick up groceries," defense attorney William Sheppard said in his opening statement. "An action ... that a mind decides to do is not necessarily an action of a sane mind."

Demeniuk switched from the antidepressant Zoloft two days before the shootings at her doctor's urging, according to the defense.

As the state's first witness, the victims' father, Thomas Demeniuk, testified that his ex-wife drank heavily and that he feared she was not providing adequate care for their sons. The couple was granted a divorce four days before the shootings.

"I sought custody because I loved Johnny and James," the father said. "The lifestyle she was leading would not provide them their needs."

The former U.S. Navy officer said he did not contest a recommendation for maternal custody because he was away frequently for the Navy and knew he would never win.

"I had 'military' taped across my head," he said. "The custody evaluator believed that she was the primary caregiver because she was with them all the time."

Demeniuk told the jury he married the defendant after a two-to-three-month affair that he described as "very physical" but later testified he did not think she ever loved him. When Leslie Demeniuk informed him she was pregnant, he said, he decided to marry her.

"You own up to your responsibilities," Demeniuk said. "And I believed in having them."

Thomas Demeniuk described his wife as a controlling woman who never treated him with respect, but later testified that he loved her very much while they were married.

Prosecutors are expected to continue their case Monday in the two-week trial at the St. Johns County Circuit Court.

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