Friday, April 2, 2004

Son gets 8 years, judge's sympathy

Mother assigned blame in own death

By Sharon Coolidge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The aunt of a man who bludgeoned his mother to death with a claw hammer said her sister's obsessive behavior was partly to blame for her death.

"Diane (Engelhardt) created the monster, and the monster killed her," according to Debbie Rogers.

Rogers' comments came in a letter to Judge Norbert Nadel before he sentenced her nephew, Frederick Engelhardt, 32, to eight years in prison for voluntary manslaughter and gross abuse of a corpse on Thursday.

Engelhardt's attorney Timothy Cutcher and family members said he learned of his father's suicide when he was 7, after which his mother isolated herself and her son from the world. Engelhardt wasn't allowed to have friends.

Judge Nadel of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court said Engelhardt had a "Norman Bates-type relationship" with his 57-year-old mother, referring to the murderous character obsessed with his mother in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho.

"I have a great deal of sympathy for the victim and sympathy for the defendant," Nadel said. "It was a bad situation."

Still, the brutal nature of the crime called for prison time, Nadel said.

"It will be nothing new for him, his entire life has been an imprisonment without walls," Nadel said.

Engelhardt could have imposed up to 10 years on the manslaughter charge, plus one year for the gross abuse of a corpse.

Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier argued for the maximum sentence.

"He is incapable of functioning in society," Piepmeier said. "I know he's been compared to Norman Bates, and that's legitimate, but the court would be reluctant to put Norman Bates on probation."

Engelhardt was charged with bludgeoning his mother to death on July 29, 2002. Prosecutors said he used a claw hammer on the back of her head eight times, then once more after she fell to the ground. Engelhardt put her body into a cistern behind their Colerain Township home.

Eight months later, investigators discovered the body.

Engelhardt said his mother attacked him first, so he grabbed the hammer and fought back.

"I wish it didn't happen. I wish I could take it back," he said. "I have to live with the guilt and nightmares the rest of my life."

When Nadel asked why he stayed at home even after becoming an adult, Engelhardt said, "I thought if I left it would destroy our relationship.

"She threatened to disown me," he said. "She was the only thing I had left in the world."


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