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Austrian faces murder charge

Allegedly held, raped daughter for 24 years

By William J. Kole
Associated Press / November 14, 2008
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VIENNA - Prosecutors filed a murder charge yesterday against the man accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years in a rat-infested cell and fathering her seven children, saying one of the youngsters who died in infancy might have survived if brought to a doctor.

Josef Fritzl "deliberately decided not to intervene" and save the infant boy's life, said the indictment, which also charges the 73-year-old retired electrician with rape, incest, false imprisonment, and enslavement.

Officials said they expect Fritzl to go on trial in March. He faces up to life imprisonment if convicted of the murder charge. Austria, like other European countries, does not have the death penalty.

Fritzl's lawyer, Rudolf Mayer, said he would not appeal the charges.

Investigators say Fritzl has confessed to imprisoning and repeatedly raping his daughter - now age 42 - in a warren of soundproofed, windowless cellar rooms he built beneath his home starting in 1984, shortly after she turned 18.

Prosecutors released parts of the 27-page indictment, disclosing horrendous new details about the conditions in which his captives were held.

During her first year as a sex slave, Fritzl's daughter was bound in iron chains that were padlocked to a post in the cell, which lacked heat, warm water, and fresh air and frequently was overrun by rats.

Fritzl regularly tortured her by beating the soles of her feet and forced her to perform sexual acts several times a day, often for hours at a time, the indictment alleges. It says Fritzl would turn off the electricity to punish his daughter, plunging the cramped dungeon into darkness for days at a time.

Police say Fritzl told them he tossed the body of the infant into a furnace in 1996 after the baby became ill and died. They say DNA tests have confirmed he is the biological father of the six surviving children.

Although nothing remains of the incinerated infant, prosecutors said they based the murder charge on interviews with Fritzl's daughter. They said Fritzl refused to take action "despite the baby's life-threatening situation" after the boy - a twin - developed severe breathing problems and turned blue.

Fritzl imprisoned his daughter and the children beneath his apartment building in Amstetten, 75 miles west of Vienna.

Authorities say Fritzl brought three of the surviving six children upstairs to live otherwise normal lives, and told his wife and neighbors that his daughter - who he said had run away to join a religious cult - had left them on the family's doorstep.

The three other children remained imprisoned with their mother until April, when one of them - a teenage girl - became ill and was taken to a hospital.

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