A German couple who starved their six-year-old son to death and stored his body in a freezer were convicted of murder Monday and handed life sentences.
The couple has been released until the verdict becomes legally binding
In a case that made national headlines, the 44-year-old mother and her 38-year-old husband, identified by the court as Angelika and Falk B., were found guilty of neglecting and abusing the boy, Dennis, for much of his short life until he finally died nearly four years ago.
Angelika B. admitted in court to hiding Dennis's body shortly before Christmas in 2001 in a stand-alone freezer next to the kitchen table.
Police only discovered Dennis's body in June 2004 in the apartment the parents shared in the depressed eastern city of Cottbus with their seven other children.
The mother, who had three more children from a previous relationship, was also accused of fraud for covering up her son's death so she could continue to receive social welfare benefits.
Prosecutors said the defendants, increasingly overwhelmed with their large family, began in 1998 to withhold food and medical care from Dennis, then aged three.
The neglect led his weight to fall far below normal and his growth to be stunted. His mother then allegedly began tying her son to his bed for days at a time with a bathrobe belt and beating him. He never attended school.
In the months before his death, Dennis only ate and drank sporadically until he collapsed from exhaustion and physical frailty and died in the early summer of 2001.
A medical examiner said during the four-month trial that Dennis could have been rescued by a physician even shortly before his death if his parents had sought care for him.
Based on that testimony, state prosecutors called for a murder conviction for the parents instead of manslaughter.
Defense attorneys for the parents unsuccessfully fought for a lesser sentence.