In a trial that dominated front pages in Switzerland this week, the 34-year-old man, who has not been named officially but who Swiss media referred to as Thomas N., pled guilty to the grisly murders of a mother, her two sons and one of the sons' girlfriend in the northern Swiss town of Rupperswil in December 2015.
The man, who also admitted to raping the youngest son, who was 13, was arrested five months later as he appeared to be preparing to attack other families in other towns.
“The Beast of Rupperswil”, as he has been dubbed by the Swiss press, was found guilty of murder, extortion, hostage-taking, sexual assault, sexual acts with a child and arson among other counts, according to the district court in Lenzburg, in the canton of Aargau.
Friday’s “indefinite incarceration” sentence – in line with Article 64 of the Swiss criminal code – means the man will, in theory, be eligible for parole if strict conditions are met.
Many members of the public had hoped the accused would be subject to a special legal regime (“life incarceration”, “lebenslängliche Verwahrung”, “l'internement à vie”) reserved for extremely dangerous offenders who are considered to be untreatable via therapy.
Under this regime, which was introduced after a popular vote on the issue in 2004, parole would be far less likely, taking place only if new scientific findings allowed for successful treatment, or on the grounds that old age or sickness meant the accused no longer posed a risk.
However, public prosecutor Barbara Loppacher on Friday gave her support to the verdict.
“The goal of the prosecutor's office was to obtain a life-long [indeterminate] sentence. We have achieved this,” she said.
“The accused is definitely going to spend a long time there, where he is and I think that is good and that is right,” she said.
'Motorway of horror'
The accused, who had no prior criminal record, “took the motorway of horror,” the lead judge said when reading Friday's verdict, Switzerland’s SDA/ATS news agency reported.
The man acted “in cold blood, in a primitive manner, without pity, nor empathy,” he added.
The prosecution alleged that the man, reportedly a student and a youth football coach who lived with his mother, had meticulously planned his crime.
He had purchased his weapon, a large kitchen knife which has never been found, several months before the crime, and made several trips to the neighbourhood where the family lived.
On the morning of December 21, 2015, he had called at the house, presenting himself as a school psychologist, and was welcomed in to speak with Carla Schauer-Freiburghaus, 48, and her 13-year-old son Davin.
Using the knife, he forced her to tie up her older son, Dion, who was 19, and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Simona Fas, before sending her out to withdraw money from her bank accounts.
When she returned, he tied her up, then sexually abused the youngest boy.
“I am a paedophile,” he acknowledged during the trial, according to SDA/ATS.
He then slit all four victims' throats and set the house on fire.
When he was arrested in May 2016, investigators found a backpack containing a weapon and material used to tie people up with.
They also determined that he had been spying on two families in Bern and inSolothurn, in the north, raising concern that he had been planning a repeat of his macabre plan.