Belgian woman who altered parachute gets 30 years

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2010 12:08 PM
Belgian woman who altered parachute gets 30 years

A jealous schoolteacher who doctored the parachute of a love rival causing her to plunge to her death was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday.

In sentencing Els Clottemans, 26, the judge said the only mitigating circumstance in the 2006 skydive murder was her feeble psychological condition. Clottemans attempted suicide in 2008.

She was sentenced a day after she was found guilty of murdering Els Van Doren by sabotaging her parachute so neither it nor a safety chute would open during a Nov. 18, 2006, jump.

A jury at a courthouse in the East Belgian town of Tongeren agreed with the prosecution that jealousy motivated Clottemans.

She and Van Doren were members of the same parachute club. The killer and her victim were intimately involved with the same a man, a Dutch skydiver, whom Clottemans wanted for herself.

The jury said Clottemans acted with premeditation and that, as an accomplished jumper, she knew very well how to disable a parachute. Evidence at the trial showed she sent anonymous letters about Van Doren's love life to mutual friends and that she was psychologically unstable. Clottemans faced a maximum penalty of life in prison.

Her trial opened Sept. 24 with the accused sitting nervously near the mud-caked parachute bag and helmet that Van Doren wore on the day she died.

The jury saw video footage from a camera mounted on her helmet, that Van Doren had shot during what would be her last jump.

She and Clottemans were among the last four jumpers to leave the Cessna plane.

The video showed how the victim looked up, yanking at her gear, hoping to see an open canopy above her.

Neither parachute opened and she crashed into a garden in the East Belgian town of Opglabbeek and died instantly.

Throughout her trial, Clottemans maintained her innocence.