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Two men sentenced for attempted burglary of Americans’ home in Landstuhl

The red brick courthouse in Zweibruecken, Germany, where two men were sentenced on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, for their part in the violent attempted burglary of an American family's home in Landstuhl in February 2019.

KARIN ZEITVOGEL/STARS AND STRIPES

By MARCUS KLOECKNER AND KARIN ZEITVOGEL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 4, 2019

ZWEIBRUECKEN, Germany — Two of the four men who tried to force their way into the home of an American family in Landstuhl in February were sentenced to prison Wednesday for attempted burglary.

Thirty-three-year-old J.R. wept as the judge sentenced him to four years in prison. The other suspect, J.M., 52, was handed a slightly longer sentence of 4.5 years.

Under German law, convicted criminals can only be named under specific circumstances.

“We still can’t gauge what the full impact on the victims was” of the attempted burglary of their home on Feb. 10, said the judge as she handed down the sentences.

The two men were part of a group of four, three of whom were brothers, that had heard from moving company workers that the American family had high-value objects in a safe in their home.

The four showed up at the house in Landstuhl with duct tape, zip ties and a loaded air gun, the court was told in an earlier hearing.

The American father fought back when the men tried to force their way into the home and managed to push three of them back out the door. After that, the father, a former Air Force major now working as a civilian for the military, grabbed a kitchen knife and ran upstairs, where the fourth home invader was forcefully holding his hand over the mouth of the American mother to try to silence her.

Two of the family’s children watched everything from their hiding place, the court was told earlier.

The marks around the mother’s mouth indicated that the force the suspect was applying could have led to her suffocating, the court heard in earlier hearings.

The American father chased the fourth home invader, H.M., down the stairs and out of the house, stabbing him three times. H.M. died of his wounds on the sidewalk in a nearby village, where his accomplices had left him with J.M., one of his brothers.

J.M.’s and J.R.’s sentences were slightly less than prosecutors had sought because the burglary was unsuccessful and they had both entered guilty pleas, the judge said.

The loss of his brother was another reason why J.M. was sentenced to 4.5 years instead of five, she said.

A mitigating factor in J.R.’s sentence was that his family had raised 1,000 euros for the American family, which the court deemed fair compensation for damages.

Johannes Berg, counsel for the American family, said he was satisfied with the sentences, but added that the family’s ordeal wasn’t over yet.

A third suspect, whose case was spun off from the other two because of his long criminal record, is expected to be sentenced in mid-December.

“This is not the end for the family,” said Berg. “The trial of the third man is still ongoing.”

kloeckner.marcus@stripes.com

zeitvogel.karin@stripes.com

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