30 years for woman who killed son


Tuesday, July 20, 2004 Posted: 0013 GMT (0813 HKT)

Franzoni was arrested in March 2002 after a 43-day investigation.

AOSTA, Italy (Reuters) -- A 33-year-old woman was sentenced to 30 years in jail on Monday for the brutal murder of her three-year-old son in a case that horrified Italy, a Catholic country in which mothers are revered as virtual saints.

The court had heard testimony that the boy, Samuele, was bludgeoned with a gardening tool while sleeping in his parents' bed in a smart stone and wood chalet in the upscale hamlet of Cogne, near some of Italy's most chic ski resorts.

His mother, Anna Maria Franzoni, was the first and only suspect. Although no one else was investigated, Franzoni remained free and had another child a year after Samuele's murder.

The failure to detain Franzoni and a series of investigative and judicial blunders sparked a nationwide debate that riveted Italians and fueled a media frenzy.

The petite brunette alerted police to Samuele's murder on January 30, 2002 after she had taken her eldest child to the school bus stop in the hamlet, near the border with France in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

The family's doctor said that Samuele had died of an aneurysm.

More than a dozen people tracked snow in and out of the house before a police pathologist ruled the boy was killed by 17 blows to the head. The gardening tool was never found.

Franzoni's blood-soaked pyjamas were found next to the body of her son but the defence and prosecution disagreed whether she had been wearing them at the time of the murder.

Critics in the media said the house was sealed so late after the murder that much of the forensic evidence had been spoiled.

The case became so notorious that it was taken on by one of Italy's best known defence lawyers, Carlo Taormina, who had defended Nazi war criminal Eric Priebke, now serving a life sentence for his role in a World War Two atrocity.

Franzoni, who had pleaded not guilty, was expected to appeal the verdict.

Her husband, who nicknamed his wife "Bimba" (baby girl) because of her youthful looks, has always defended his wife and maintained she did not kill their son.