The main suspect in last year’s disappearance and murder of 16-year-old Sigrid Giskegjerde Schjetne, which set off the largest civilian search response in Norwegian history, was found guilty of both kidnapping and killing her on Friday. The Oslo city court (Oslo tingrett) ruled, however, that he’s too mentally ill to be sentenced to jail and was instead committed to psychiatric care. His attorney filed an immediate appeal.
Judge Ingmar Nestor Nilsen clearly disagreed with the 38-year-old’s defense attorney, John Christian Elden, who repeatedly claimed that prosecutors had no hard evidence in the case. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported on several portions of the verdict used to back up Nilsen’s determination that there was enough evidence to convict the defendant.
Nilsen noted, for example, how Schjetne’s blood was found in the camping van that the 38-year-old used, and that there was only one set of keys to the barn that the defendant also used and where the van was parked. The judge said he believed that it was most probable that Schjetne (widely referred to in the case simply as “Sigrid”) was killed inside the van.
Nilsen also noted that a tent which was found wrapped around Sigrid’s body went out of production 40 years ago, but that the defendant had such a tent in the sleeping area of his camping van. Nilsen further pointed to the discovery, in a garbage container outside the barn, of a plastic bag containing a newspaper advertising supplement that also was spotted with Sigrid’s blood. Police investigators found a partial fingerprint from the defendant on the plastic bag.
The verdict ruled out theories that another murderer was involved, but Judge Nilsen agreed with prosecutors that the defendant was utilregnelig, meaning he is too mentally unstable to be held criminally responsible for his actions and thus can’t be punished with a jail term. Nilsen stated that there was reason to believe the defendant was psychotic and that there’s a “qualified risk” he will carry out more violent attacks. The danger of that rises with every day that he goes without treatment, according to Nilsen, not least since the defendant earlier has refused treatment.
The judge thus committed him to psychiatric treatment and ordered him to pay compensation of NOK 40,000 (less than USD 7,000) plus NOK 73,349 t Schjetne’s parents, who sat through most of his trial.
The defendant himself has denied he’s mentally ill along with denying that he had anything to do with Schjetne’s murder. Two of the three court-appointed psychiatrists in the case also believed he was mentally capable and could be sentenced to jail, so an appeal was expected. Schjetne’s parents also were prepared that they will need to sit through yet another trial, but hope it may resolve several unanswered questions regarding exactly what happened when their daughter disappeared, why she disappeared and when she actually died.
Prosecutors said they would take the verdict under advisement before deciding whether they also would appeal any portions of it. The judge, however, largely seemed to side with their arguments and delivered the conviction and mental health commitment prosecutors had sought.