Judge Gives Mother Life Sentence For Each Of
January 27, 2006
A mother who murdered her twin 4-year-old sons in 2001 will
spend the first night of her two life sentences behind bars Friday.
Leslie Demeniuk sat emotionless as her fate was
announced. She already knew it would be life in prison -- the
Her attorney argued Demeniuk shot and killed her
boys because prescription drugs caused her to be temporarily insane,
but the jury did not buy the story.
The boys' father, Tommy Demeniuk, presented one of
two victim impact statements at Friday's hearing.
Tommy Demeniuk clutched a photograph of himself
with his sons during happier times as he told the judge all about the
boys, their favorite books and games. He made no mention of Leslie
Nobody took the stand in defense of Leslie
Demeniuk, although her stepfather, Eric Shoenig, told reporters after
the hearing that she was a victim, too.
"The gun that really killed our grandsons was not
the gun that Leslie Demeniuk fired, but the gun that the
pharmaceutical companies put in her hand," Shoenig said.
Before the sentencing, Leslie Demeniuk's lawyer
asked the judge to set aside the verdict. That was denied and Leslie
Demeniuk was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences, one for each
of the little boys.
Former Boyfriend Of Mom Who Killed Twins Still
January 18, 2006
The former boyfriend of the woman convicted Tuesday
of shooting and killing her twin 4-year-old boys was afraid that she
would hurt somebody.
Anthony Ortiz just thought Leslie Demeniuk was
going to hurt herself, not her children.
"I knew something was going to happen, I just never
dreamed it was going to be this," Ortiz said Wednesday. "I feared for
her own life. I never thought this would happen."
Instead, Demeniuk killed her sons as they watched
television in a Sawgrass home on March 17, 2001.
Ortiz was the one that found the boys' bodies and
Despite all that has happened, Ortiz said he still
"I'll always stand by her side," Ortiz told Channel
4's Dan Leveton the day after she was convicted of two counts of
first-degree murder. "I'll always be there when they go to court. I'll
always try and help her. I believe in her 100 percent."
Like her attorneys, Ortiz places the blame for the
murders on the side effects of anti-depressants she was taking.
"She was a free spirit, and the thought of her
taking this drug...," Ortiz said. "I knew that there was something
wrong; it was not the medication she should have been prescribed."
Ortiz says Demeniuk even went to the doctor with
her concerns and her medication was changed from Zoloft to Paxil. Two
days later, Ortiz walked in to find her two boys shot to death.
Defense claims that a drug interaction contributed
to a mental state where she was not responsible for her actions were
not allowed at trial. Motions on that issue and others were the main
reason the case took more than five years to go to trial.
Last week, nearly five years after that incident,
Ortiz testified at Demeniuk's trial.
"It was very hard to see her, because I believe in
her 100 percent," he said through tears. "It brought back a lot of
memories and pain."
Ortiz copes with that pain by doing extensive
research on the effects of antidepressants. He also passes out flyers,
he says, to educate the public about the potential dangers.
With Demeniuk facing life in prison, he wants her
not to give up.
"There's still people who believe in her," Ortiz
said. "A lot of people who are still going to fight for her."
Jury: Mother Guilty Of Killing 4-Year-Old Twins
January 17, 2006
Nearly five years after her twin boys were shot to death, it
took a jury three hours to find Leslie Demeniuk guilty of two counts
of first-degree murders.
After six days of expert testimony, the six-member
jury rejected defense arguments that Demeniuk was insane, finding her
guilty of killing her 4-year-old sons in her father's Sawgrass home in
March 17, 2001.
Demeniuk, 36, showed no reaction when the verdict
was read, but the boy's father, Tommy Demeniuk, was to emotional to
Demeniuk's lawyers also left the courtroom without
commenting, but her stepfather was angered by the verdict.
"Our hands were tied in a big wad," said Eric
Schoenig, Demeniuk's stepfather. said. "We could never talk about the
SRIs (the anti-depressants Demeniuk was taking), how they might have
affected our daughter. It's a shame; it really is a miscarriage of
Even if Demeniuk's attorneys were able to introduce
more evidence about pharmaceutical drugs and their effect on her
mental state, some experts said it still may not have been enough to
win an acquittal.
"It's hard to sell. Never the less, you do what you
can do. There were some very good lawyers involved in this case and
you wait for a verdict and you never know what's coming," said
Criminal Defense Attorney Tom Cushman.
Demeniuk's attorneys did not dispute that she
killed the boys. Instead, they claimed she was not guilty by reason of
insanity, but were barred from introducing evidence that an
interaction of prescription drugs may have resulted in her violent
Prosecutors said despite drug and alcohol use,
Demeniuk knew what she was doing and should spend the rest of her life
During its closing arguments Monday, the
prosecution retraced what occurred when Demeniuk shot and killed her
Prosecutor Noah McKinnon told the jury it was a
brutal case of first-degree murder.
"It took time and the intent to kill was in her
mind when she looked him in the face, put the gun to his forehead and
pulled the trigger," McKinnon said.
The defense argued that alcohol mixed with
antidepressants led to the shocking incident and that Demeniuk was
delusional when she shot the boys.
However, McKinnon strongly disagreed. "All of the
telephone calls, that day, were not psychotic. All of her actions,
that day, were not psychotic," McKinnon said.
In his closing arguments defense attorney Bill
Sheppard passionately disagreed with the prosecution, claiming that
prescription drugs and alcohol mixed to cause Demeniuk to become
"Why it happened was because Leslie Demeniuk did
not know the difference between right and wrong at the precise moment
that she pulled the trigger," Sheppard said. "The only explanation for
these hideous actions is that she thought she was saving her children.
She was taking them to a better place. It was because of a total
The jury began deliberations about 4:30 p.m. Monday
They resumed deliberations just after 9 a.m. Tuesday, returning to the
courtroom just over one hour later with the verdict: guilty as
Channel 4's Dan Levington was able to speak with
one of the jurors who told him they were absolutely exhausted from two
weeks of testimony and jury selection. The juror said they actually
asked to be recessed Monday night because they were overwhelmed and
wanted to come back Tuesday morning to look more thoroughly at the
The juror also said one of the key points in
determining the verdict was the blood alcohol level in Demeniuk's
system on they day of the murders -- more than four times the legal
There was no word Tuesday night whether or not
Demeniuk would seek an appeal.
The judge said he would sentence her within 30
days. Demeniuk could face live in prison without parole.
Defense Rests; Prosecutors Call Rebuttal Witness
In Demeniuk Murder Trial
January 13, 2006
The defense in the Leslie Demeniuk murder trial rested Friday
morning after the second psychologist it put on the stand testified
for a second day.
Psychologist Dr. Ernest Miller again told the jury
that Demeniuk was delusional when she gunned down her twin sons in
The prosecution called psychologist Dr. Barbara
Kirwin as its first rebuttal witness.
Kirwin examined Demeniuk over three days in 2003,
and told the jury it was her opinion that Demeniuk was not insane and
knew exactly what she was doing when she killed her sons.
"My opinion is that at the time of the offense,
Leslie Demeniuk did not suffer from a mental disease or defect and
that she was sane in the sense that she knew what she was doing. She
understood the wrong things that she did." Kirwin said.
Kirwin said that during her interview of the
defendant, Demeniuk talked about a long history of substance abuse.
"She had stated to me that she had used alcohol and
other substances including marijuana, LSD and cocaine," Kirwin said.
Kirwin also testified about the manner in which
Demeniuk ended her marriage with her husband, specifically about the
way she informed her husband of her decision.
"She notified him about her decision to terminate
the marriage when he was away on a ship, on a ship-to-shore telephone
call, which struck me as a pretty -- kind of, a cruel way to terminate
a marriage," Kirwin said.
Following the prosecution, the defense's
cross-examination of Kirwin became very heated, especially when the
subject of the murder weapon came up.
Defense attorney Bill Sheppard pointed to Kirwin's
report detailing her interviews with Demeniuk and demanded Kirwin read
the section about the gun.
The reason behind the argument over the gun was
because Sheppard said the gun was not mentioned in the doctor's notes
given to him. Kirwin said that it was mentioned, however, between her
Kirwin also said, in summary, that Demeniuk's
actions leading up to the day of the crime showed that she was just a
very selfish person.
Medical Expert Says Mother Who Killed Her Sons
Had Psychotic Episode
January 12, 2006
The second day of defense testimony in the Leslie Demeniuk
murder trial began Thursday with the prosecution's cross-examination
of a psychologist who specializes in treating depression.
Dr. David Menkes testified Wednesday about the
dangerous side effects associated with combining different
Demeniuk's defense attorneys claim the combination
of the two antidepressants she was taking, along with a sedative and
alcohol, rendered Demeniuk temporarily insane when she shot her twin
sons to death in 2001.
"I believe she was certainly insane and at the
period when she decided to shoot the children, retrieve the weapon,
load it, come back in and do the deed," Menkes said.
However, the prosecution argues that Demeniuk knew
exactly what she was doing, and on Thursday they ardently
"How can you say, before this jury, that she didn?t
know what she was doing when she dialed him up immediately after
shooting the last child and told exactly what she had done and the
consequences -- that they were dead? How can you say that sir?" said
"Yes, I do believe she knew what she was doing, she
knew the consequences, but she did not know that it was wrong," Menkes
Several other witnesses followed Menkes' testimony,
including forensic expert Dr. Ernest Miller, who told the court that
he did everything in his power to find out why Demeniuk killed her
sons, but that it was not easy to find an answer.
"The fact that she had four years of bonding,
extensive bonding, and ended up using a .357 Magnum to end a
relationship -- it's unbelievable and hard for me to accept," Miller
Miller said he believes Demeniuk was psychotic
during the murders. He said she was suicidal and could not separate
herself and her misery from her children.
"She believed that at the point of the crime, that
the world was so terrible and so horrible that she did not think she
could live and she was so bonded pathologically and strongly with her
children that she included them in the act," Miller said.
Miller also mentioned the adverse side effects of
combining medications and said he believed Demeniuk had a psychotic
episode the day of the crime.
Prosecution Rests, Defense Presents First
Witnesses In Demeniuk Murder Trial
January 11, 2006
After calling two final witnesses Wednesday afternoon, the
prosecution rested its case against Leslie Demeniuk.
Prosecutors say Demeniuk killer her 4-year-old twin
sons in cold blood in 2001.
Over the past week prosecutors have called numerous
witnesses to the stand including Demeniuk's ex-husband, her boyfriend
who found the boys dead in Demeniuk's father's Ponte Vedra Beach home,
and a homicide detective who was one of the first people to arrive at
the crime scene.
Before the state rested its case it put two more
key witnesses on the stand. One, an expert who examined the scene
following the murders and the other a medical examiner who described
exactly what happened to the two children.
After the prosecution rested it case Demeniuk's
defense lawyers began the daunting task of convincing the jury she did
not know what she was doing when she shot her sons to death.
The first witness the defense called was
psychologist Dr. David Menkes, who examined Demeniuk in 2002, more
than a year after the crime was committed.
Menkes practices medicine in Britain and
specializes in treating depression.
"Given the particularly horrific details of what
happened on March 17, 2001, I was very motivated to try to understand
the best I could, what happened and how it happened," said Menkes.
Demeniuk's attorneys argued that the combination of
two anti-depressants Zoloft and Paxil, along with the sedative Zantac
and alcohol, contributed to her actions at her in 2001.
Menkes confirmed that the side effects from the
combination of drugs could be severe.
"What worries me is that it is often done without a
great deal of planning or monitoring. Of course the possibility of a
side effect of two drugs is much greater than with one drug at a
time," Menkes said.
The defense says the combination left Demeniuk
Demeniuk's defense is expected to last at least one
more day. The prosecution will be able to call rebuttal witnesses
before closing arguments.
Jury In Demeniuk Murder Trial Hears Grim Crime
January 10, 2006
The jury in the Leslie Demeniuk murder trial heard more about
the grim crime scene evidence on Tuesday.
One of the witnesses called by prosecutors was lead
detective Sgt. Jay Lawing, who one of the first investigators called
after victims James and John Demeniuk were shot to death inside their
grandfather's Ponte Vedra Beach home.
The victims' mother, Leslie Demeniuk, has admitted
to killing the boys, but claims she was insane at the time of the of
the March 2001 incident.
As Lawing described the clothing the boys were
wearing, Leslie Demeniuk cried, as did the boys' father Tommy
Demeniuk, who testified earlier in the week about the last time he saw
his sons alive.
Lawing also read a statement signed by Leslie
Demeniuk that read: "When I got back in the room, I shot both boys in
the head. I think I shot Jamie first. I think I shot one of them
twice. I don't know what was going through my head. I heard one of the
boys still breathing."
Earlier in the day, some of the first people to
come in contact with Leslie Demeniuk the day of the shooting
testified, including a deputy with the St. Johns County Sheriff's
Department and a paramedic.
The deputy testified that Leslie Demeniuk was
coherent, as did one of the emergency workers at the crime scene.
"The police officer asked if she knew why she was
there, and she stated that she shot her baby. She told police that the
gun was in the house, that it was her father's gun, she got it out of
the closet and then shot her children," said Emergency Room Physician
Dr. Karen Flek.
Boyfriend Of Woman On Trial In Sons' Murder
Says Drugs Changed Her Behavior
January 9, 2006
The boyfriend of a woman accused of killing her twin sons
testified Monday that her behavior changed when she started taking
anti-depressants, then got worse when her prescription was changed
just two days before the boys were killed.
Outside of the courtroom, Anthony Ortiz handed out
flyers that read: "Exposing the Truth. Is Your Medication Loaded?"
Inside the courtroom, he testified about Leslie Demeniuk's behavior
after she began taking a medication called Zoloft.
Ortiz told the jury that Demeniuk was disoriented,
forgetful, and easily lost attention in the days and weeks before her
two 4-year-olds were shot to death in March 2001.
"She didn't sound right. Something was getting
worse. It sounded worse," Ortiz said.
Ortiz told the jury that she slapped him for no
reason a week before the boys were shot, and she punched him the night
before he found the boys dead. He said he had asked her to give him
back his Zoloft, because he thought she was taking too many.
Ortiz said he still loves Demeniuk.
Also on Monday, prosecutors played the tape of the
911 call Ortiz made when he discovered the boys dead in the Sawgrass
Country Club of Demeniuk's father.
Demeniuk wiped away tears as the tape played in the
courtroom, describing the scene inside her father's home back in March
The state said in its opening statement that
Demeniuk had a history of drug use, and on the day of the murders she
had mixed anti-depressants with alcohol. According to court documents,
her blood alcohol was measured just after her arrest at three times
the legal limit.
Prosecutors also say Demeniuk killed the boys to
hurt their father. The couple's divorce was about to be finalized.
Demeniuk's defense lawyers contend that was insane
when she shot and killed her sons -- something no sane mother would
ever do. They also say there is evidence in the 911 tape that
Demeniuk's medication played a role in what happened to her little
They wanted to present scientific evidence about
the interaction of anti-depressants and alcohol, but Judge John
Alexander ruled there is not enough documented science to bolster that
legal claim -- a decision that was upheld on appeal to the Florida
Testimony is expected to resume on Tuesday at about
9 a.m. Physiatrists are still expected to testify and talk about what
Demeniuk's state of mind was on the day of the shootings.
Father Of Slain Twins First To Testify In Murder
Trial For Ex-Wife
January 6, 2006
A grieving father took the stand and testified Friday about
the last time he saw his twin sons alive; his ex-wife accused of
Tommy Demeniuk was the first witness on the stand
in the murder trial of his ex-wife Leslie Demeniuk.
According to police, Leslie Demeniuk shot her
4-year-old boys nearly five years ago.
During opening statements both sides painted two
very different pictures. Prosecutors explained to the jury how Leslie
Demeniuk got her gun, loaded it, and gunned down her sons as they
watched TV. Defense attorneys described her as a troubled and
depressed woman that was taking medications, which they said made her
While on the stand, Tommy Demeniuk told the jury he
tried to make their marriage work for the boys' sake, but after their
birth, it was clear she cared more for her own desires than his or
theirs. He said she drank too much, and after they separated, worried
about his boys when they were with her.
"I didn't believe the lifestyle that she was
leading was going to provide them with all their needs," said Tommy
He told the jury she once said if the boys wanted
to do drugs when they grew up, she would prefer they do drugs with
Under cross-examination, Tommy Demeniuk
acknowledged Leslie was a good mother once, before her behavior
Leslie Demeniuk's defense lawyers contended that
when she shot and killed her sons, she was not in her right mind, and
did what no sane mother would ever do.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday morning.
The man who was dating Leslie Demeniuk at the time she killed her sons
is expected to testify. He was the one that called 911 after walking
in and seeing the two boys shot.
Prosecutor: Mother shot her 4-year-old twin boys to death
Jan. 6, 2006
By Bo Rosser - Court TV
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.
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
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
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
"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.
Trial Begins Of Mother Accused Of Killing
January 4, 2006
Jury selection began Monday in the the murder trial of a Ponte
Vedra mother accused of killing her two sons almost five years ago.
Prosecutors say Leslie Demeniuk shot and killed her
twin 4-year-old sons -- Jamie and Johnny -- at their father's home in
Sawgrass Country Club in March 2001.
They say the killings were premeditated and
Court documents mistakenly released in 2002
included Demeniuk's confession, in which she acknowledged she killed
her sons to hurt her soon-to-be-ex-husband. Their divorce was about to
"I shot both boys in the head. I think I shot Jamie
twice. I think I shot one of them twice," Demeniuk is quoted as saying
The state says they'll show Demeniuk has a history
of drug use, and on the day of the murders she had mixed
anti-depressants with alcohol. According to court documents, on the
day of the shootings, her blood alcohol was measured at three times
the legal limit.
Demeniuk's lawyers are expected to present an
insanity defense, but they will not be allowed to claim that insanity
was the result of the mixture of anti-depressants and alcohol. Judge
John Alexander ruled there is not enough documented science to bolster
that legal claim -- a decision that was upheld on appeal to the
Florida Supreme Court.
A jury pool of about 100 people is available to be
interviewed for the trial, and court officials said it could take
several days to empanel a six-member jury. After hearing several
defense motions, court was recessed for the day about 3:30 p.m.
Jury selection is scheduled to resume Wednesday
morning at 9 a.m.
Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty
is she was convicted, but changed their minds two weeks ago.
March 17, 2001: Leslie Demeniuk is arrested
after authorities find her twin 4-year-old sons, James and John, shot
to death in a Sawgrass condominium in Ponte Vedra Beach. She was
passed out on a bed, with the gun in her hand, police said.
May 2001: Demeniuk pleads not
May 2001: Prosecutors
announce they will seek the death penalty.
February 2003: Demeniuk
changes her plea to not guilty by reason of insanity.
Feb. 25, 2004: The first day
of a hearing about the insanity defense that ended a week later with
Circuit Judge Robert Mathis saying he would allow psychiatrists'
testimony as "pure opinion."
March 2004: The 5th District
Court of Appeal grants a delay so prosecutors can argue against
August 2004: Appellate court
sides with the state; the hearing returns to St. Johns County. Circuit
Judge John Alexander, who replaced Mathis, rules that the science
behind the insanity defense is not generally accepted and can't be
presented as fact. Mathis, who had moved to civil court after the
death of his son, later retires.
Dec. 22, 2005: The state, led
by a new prosecution team after the resignation of Assistant State
Attorney Maureen Sullivan Christine, files a waiver saying it will not
seek the death penalty.
Jan. 3, 2006: Jury selection