Danish court sends abusive father to prison

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2011 11:33 AM
Danish court sends abusive father to prison

A Danish appeals court on Thursday overturned a ruling that a man who had beaten and sexually abused children was mentally ill and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

In June, a lower court convicted Harry Larsen, 42, and his wife, Tine Jensen, 37, of several crimes regarding the nine children in their family. Larsen was found guilty of raping two teenage daughters and forcing one daughter to dig her own grave. He also hit the children with a baseball bat and metal bars, and threatened to cut a son's throat with a knife.

Witnesses, including the oldest children and social workers, told the trial disturbing tales of growing up in dirty, trash-filled houses with no heating. Jensen testified that her husband was "a ticking bomb that could explode anytime" and claimed she had wanted to leave him but didn't after he threatened to kill her.

The couple were arrested in February 2010 after the oldest daughter contacted police, who found their refrigerator empty and five dead ponies that rats and mice had been eating. The family was constantly on the run from social workers and had lived in eight different places in eight years.

Six of the couple's children, including a 2-year-old, were put in foster care.

Both parents appealed their sentences, which had ordered Larsen sent to a mental health facility, not prison.

On Thursday, the Western High Court overturned that ruling, saying Larsen isn't insane and that he must be jailed for 11 years.

The court also upheld the 4-year prison sentence given Jensen, but she was released Thursday, given the time she already had been in custody.

Speaking to reporters, Jensen said she was happy and relieved about Thursday's ruling, adding: "I regret that I ever let this man into my life."

She plans to spend Christmas with her children, she said.