By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
VIENNA/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– An Austrian man who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years and fathered seven children with her was sentenced on Thursday, March 19, to life in prison, which he will serve mainly in a psychiatric facility. It came shortly after Josef Fritzl pleaded guilty to all charges, including murder and enslavement.
Josef Fritzl, 73, pleaded guilty to all charges, including murder by neglect, enslavement, rape, incest, coercion and false imprisonment.
The court in St. Poelten near the capital Vienna sentenced him to life in prison, which he will serve mainly in a psychiatric ward.
After denying for months that he played a part in the death of a new born boy, the 73-year-old Fritzl told the court on Wednesday he knew the baby was ill. Prosecutors said the baby, named Michael, died because of a lack of medical care. Fritzl burned the boy’s body in a furnace.
He said he had been shamed, admitting to wrongdoing by the lengthy video testimony of his daughter Elisabeth, with whom he fathered seven children.
In the presentation, she recalled how she was raped by her father thousands of times while being held captive in a tiny sound proof cellar for 24 years beneath the family home in the town of Amstetten, 100 kilometers west of Vienna
Fritzl’s lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said his client has accepted that he will die in captivity for his crimes, and that he will not appeal the verdict.
“I think the judgment has been a logical consequence of the admission, namely given the number of thousands of rapes plus a murder,” he said. “Only such a sentence is evident. My client has accepted the verdict. And I hope that he will feel that the verdict is fair.”
Psychiatrist Adelheid Kastner, told the court that Fritzl posed a danger to society as he regarded himself as “born to rape.”
Dr. Kastner explained to reporters that she learned from Fritzl that his behavior was motivated by a thirst for power. “The aim of most abuses is not sexual fulfillment, but power fulfillment,” she said.
“It is one of many methods to dominate and to humiliate another person. He [Fritzl] explained that Elisabeth most resembled him. He said she was ‘as obstinate and strong as me.’ And when you realize that the aim of the abuser is to feel himself powerful, than it is a case of a bigger enemy leads to a bigger victory.”
Police say his wife did not know of his actions. Fritzl’s daughter and her six children, three of whom were held prisoner from birth, are now living under new identities.
The case has lead to a debate over more social control in Austrian society which, critics say, often looks the other way when residents are considered “correct citizens” in public. Often wearing a gray suit, Fritzl was seen as a respected engineer by neighbors and colleagues. (BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals. This BosNewsLife News story also airs via the Voice of America network).