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AG High Court sends “cave murderer” to hospital indefinitely

Updated at 25 Mar 2024 2:40 pm

On Monday, the High Court of the Canton of Aargau sentenced a 25-year-old man to 19 years and two months' imprisonment for murder and attempted murder. The sentence will be suspended in favor of inpatient psychiatric treatment.

In its decision, the High Court dismissed the appeal of the defense and confirmed the judgment of the Brugg District Court of October 2022. The judgment is not yet legally binding. It can be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.

The custodial sentence is postponed in favor of the inpatient measure for severely disturbed offenders. This has no predetermined end. Release depends on the success of the treatment. This is why the measure is popularly known as "short detention".

At the sentencing hearing, the presiding judge appealed to the defendant. "It is now up to you to take your chance" and participate in the therapy in such a way that it is successful. If this is not the case, there is a risk of imprisonment - "that must be clear to you".

In recent years, the Swiss man had refused various attempts at therapy while in early release. He had also attracted attention with verbal abuse, threats and assaults against caregivers and inmates.

Unfavorable forecast

The psychiatrist had diagnosed the young man with a severe mental disorder. Nevertheless, the accused was fully competent at the time of both crimes. He considered the prognosis for future crime-free behavior to be "very unfavorable", said the expert.

The public prosecutor demanded confirmation of the first-instance verdict. The defense attorney had no chance with his motions. He wanted his client to be classified as not guilty and acquitted. He therefore demanded a new or supplementary psychiatric report. The prison sentence should be significantly reduced in the event of a guilty verdict.

It was undisputed that the young man needed inpatient treatment. Unlike in the first instance hearing, the defense lawyer no longer categorically demanded a measure for young adults that must end on their 30th birthday.

Deadly "test of courage"

On April 7, 2019, the accused tricked his 24-year-old colleague into crawling into a narrow cave on the Bruggerberg under the pretext of a test of courage. He then blocked the entrance with boulders and earth. The man buried alive had no chance of survival. He froze to death in the cold cave.

Just a week earlier, the accused had pushed the same colleague down a steep slope in Ticino. He was lucky to survive with only minor injuries and assumed it was an accident. The court classified this incident as attempted murder.

"What is remorse?"

The accused was brought to court in shackles. This contrasted disturbingly with his soft, childlike face. He answered questions eagerly and verbosely. Sometimes he didn't understand what the judge meant. For example, when the judge asked him whether he had had any pangs of conscience, he asked back: "What's that?"

In contrast to the crime on Bruggerberg, the accused denied that he had pushed his friend in Ticino. However, in the first interrogations after his arrest, he had given a detailed account of the incident. The accounts were consistent with what the friend had told his parents. The court had no doubt that he had pushed his friend, said the judge.

©Keystone/SDA

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