Suspect in violent invasion of American family’s Landstuhl home could spend life in detention

The trial continued Aug. 13, 2019, at the courthouse in Zweibruecken, Germany, of three men charged in connection with the violent invasion of an American family's home in Landstuhl in February. One of the suspects could spend the rest of his life in detention after the prosecution asked for Germany's tough preventive custody law to be considered.


By MARCUS KLOECKNER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 14, 2019

ZWEIBRUECKEN, Germany – One of the men accused of storming into the Landstuhl home of an American family early this year in a failed burglary could spend the rest of his life in detention, a court determined Tuesday.

The 61-year-old suspect, who was one of four men implicated in the violent home invasion in February, should be placed under preventive detention, which allows any prison sentence he might be given to be extended indefinitely, the prosecution said Tuesday on the second day of the trial.

Convicted criminals held under Germany’s preventive detention law, or “Sicherungsverwahrung,” are assessed regularly to determine if they have been rehabilitated.

If they are still deemed a danger to the public, they remain in prison or another detention facility, court spokesman Uwe Fischer said.

“Preventive custody is the sharpest sword we have in German criminal law,” defense lawyer Phillip Goetze told the court.

Citing the accused’s long criminal record, the judge allowed the prosecution request for preventive detention and ordered that the 61-year-old man be tried separately from two other men on trial for the home invasion.

A fourth assailant died after the American father stabbed him in what prosecutors later determined was self-defense.

Two of the suspects have appealed the decision not to prosecute the former Air Force major, who is now a Defense Department civilian employee, for use of excessive force during the home invasion.

The suspects forced their way into the American family’s home on the evening of Feb. 10, police said. They had targeted the residence after an employee of a moving company said the family had high-value items in the house, prosecutors said last month when the three men were charged.

One of the home invaders ran upstairs, where he assaulted the American mother as she was putting the family’s infant to sleep, prosecutors said.

The 41-year-old father described in an interview with Stars and Stripes how he heard his wife screaming while he fought with the other three home invaders downstairs, managing eventually to push them back out the door.

“She is screaming bloody murder, she’s screaming ‘my baby, my baby,’” he said. “The whole time I am swinging. I am pounding on anybody and everything that comes near me. I just fought like hell.”

The father then grabbed a kitchen knife and ran upstairs, where he scuffled with the fourth home invader, stabbing him three times.

The 43-year-old wounded invader ran out of the house and fled with the three other suspects. The wounded man was taken out of the car and left on the sidewalk in a village about 10 miles from Landstuhl, German officials said. One of the other home invaders, his brother, remained with him and called for medical assistance, but the man died of blood loss.

The suspects, who under German law can be identified only by their initials, face up to 15 years in prison if convicted on robbery charges, and up to one additional year for failing to help the home invader who died.

The preventive custody rule could indefinitely extend any jail time handed down to 61-year-old A.M., who is the brother of two of the alleged home invaders, including the one who died.

The judge did not specify when the new trial for A.M. would begin but said it would be soon.

The trial of J.M., 52, and J.R., 33, will move ahead as planned, the judge said.

More than 40 witnesses and five experts will be heard during the course of the trial, which reconvenes in two weeks.


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