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All sides appeal murder case involving pastor convicted of murdering wife

Associated Press, USA
Aug. 21, 2004 • Saturday August 21, 2004

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) – A bizarre murder case involving a Pentecostal pastor convicted of manipulating his former nanny to shoot his wife will go another round in court as both prosecutors and defence lawyers appealed the initial ruling.

Helge Fossmo was sentenced to life in prison last month for the murder of his wife, Alexandra, but prosecutors appealed Friday saying he should be convicted of killing his previous spouse as well.

Defence lawyers also appealed the July 30 ruling, hoping to have the 32-year-old pastor acquitted on all charges in a case that has captivated Swedes for the last eight months.

The Uppsala District Court ruled that Fossmo persuaded his nanny, Sara Svensson, 27, to shoot his wife as she was sleeping in their home in Knutby, about 75 kilometres northeast of Stockholm. Svensson also shot Fossmo’s neighbour, who survived the Jan. 10 attack.

Svensson confessed to the shootings, but maintained that Fossmo persuaded her to do it, in part by sending her anonymous cellphone text messages that she interpreted as being from God.

The court deemed Svensson mentally ill and sentenced her to psychiatric care.

In Friday’s appeal, prosecutors said Svensson wasn’t seriously mentally ill and should be sentenced to prison instead.

They also appealed the court’s decision to acquit Fossmo on charges of murdering his first wife, who was found dead in a bathtub in 1999.

Helene Fossmo’s death was originally declared an accident, but prosecutors reopened the investigation this year, claiming that the pastor had killed her by bashing her head against the faucet.

However, the district court ruled there was insufficient evidence to prove the death was not accidental.

“We feel the district court misjudged the evidence on this count,” prosecutor Anne Sjoeblom told Swedish news agency TT.

During the trial, Svensson said Fossmo convinced her that killing his wife and neighbour was the only way to win God’s grace. She said Fossmo manipulated her for months until she became “a robot, programmed to kill.”

Fossmo told the court he had been sleeping in a room about nine metres from where his wife was murdered, but claimed he did not hear the three gunshots.

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