Friday, March 12, 2004

Man convicted in fatal beating of his mother

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A 32-year-old Colerain Township man who beat his mother to death with a hammer then dumped her body in a cistern behind their home was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and gross abuse of a corpse Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

The fact that Frederick Engelhardt killed his mother Diana Engelhardt in July 2002 was never disputed. But there was a question about whether he killed her in self-defense or had planned to kill her.

Engelhardt, nicknamed Fritzy, said he lashed out at his mother after she came after him first. He said he grabbed the hammer out of her hand and was fighting back.

But county prosecutors disputed that possibility by pointing out that Diana Engelhardt had no defensive wounds.

Judge Norbert Nadel, who presided over the bench trial, said he had "no alternative" but to find Engelhardt guilty of voluntary manslaughter because his deceased mother could not present her version of the "sordid story."

Numerous witnesses testified that they questioned the relationship between the mother and son for years, but rarely ever intervened. Some family members said Engelhardt never meant to kill his mother.

Nadel said Engelhardt had a "Norman Bates-type relationship" with his 57-year-old mother, referring to the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho.

"I thought I'd heard everything until I heard this bizarre case," Nadel said.

Relatives said Engelhardt was being controlled by his mother. He was a 32-year-old man who was not allowed to go anywhere without her. She never let him have friends and he never had a girlfriend.

Debra Rogers, Engelhardt's aunt, said her sister became very possessive of Engelhardt after her husband died more than eight years ago.

"I loved her, but she had a lot of problems," Rogers said. "He's like a little boy. He's never been allowed to grow up."

The judge's decision means that Engelhardt could spend up to 10 years in prison. He would have faced life in prison if convicted of murder. Engelhardt will be sentenced April 1.

Engelhardt was charged with bludgeoning his mother to death on July 29, 2002. Prosecutors said he thrust a claw hammer into the back of her head eight times and when she crumpled to the ground, he hit her one last time. Engelhardt used electrical cords to lower her body into a cistern behind their Colerain Township home.

Engelhardt's sister reported her missing, and her death was discovered eight months later.

Investigators discovered the body in the cistern after questioning Engelhardt.


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