Swedish pastor sentenced life in prison for ordering nanny to kill his wife

Associated Press/July 30, 2004
By Karen Mattias

Stockholm, Sweden -- A 32-year-old pastor was sentenced to life in prison Friday for using cell phone text messages he said were from God to convince his former nanny to kill his wife.

The Uppsala District Court ruled that Helge Fossmo, a Pentecostal church pastor, convinced Sara Svensson, 27, to shoot his wife as she was sleeping in their house on Jan. 10 in Knutby, 45 miles northeast of Stockholm. She also shot Fossmos' neighbor, Daniel Linde, who survived.

Svensson, deemed mentally ill by a panel of judges on Friday, was sentenced to psychiatric care. She admitted to the shootings, but maintained that Fossmo convinced her to do it, in part by sending her text messages on her cell phone he claimed were from God.

The Knutby shootings have captivated Swedes for the last six months, as the case has taken one bizarre turn after another.

Police said Fossmo had been having an affair with Linde's wife, and prosecutors claimed Fossmo wanted his wife and Linde dead so he could start a new life with Alexandra Linde and avoid getting a divorce.

During the trial, Svensson detailed how Fossmo convinced her that killing Linde and Fossmos' wife was the only way to win God's grace.

"I was a robot, programmed to kill,'' Svensson told the court during her testimony.

The court believed Svenssons' claims, writing in its verdict that it was clear that Fossmo, ``through intense, purposeful and long-lasting influence'' made Svensson commit the murder. In Sweden, a life sentence is typically 10-15 years in prison.

Fossmo's lawyer, Ola Nordstroem, said he was ``disappointed'' by the verdict. It was unclear if he would appeal.

The court acquitted Fossmo on charges of murdering his first wife, Helene Fossmo, who was found dead in their bathtub in 1999.

That death was originally declared an accident after medical examiners decided she hit her head on a bathtub faucet after a fall.

But during the trial, prosecutors reopened the investigation into Helene's death, claiming Fossmo had killed her by bashing her head against the faucet.

The court, however, found there was insufficient evidence to prove that Helene's death had not been an accident.

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