A French court sentenced Jonathann Daval to 25 years in prison on Saturday for killing his wife and then burning her body, in a case that shocked the country.
The 36-year-old Frenchman remained impassive as the verdict was read. He turned to look at the members of his own family who were present. Earlier, he had said “Sorry, sorry” on the dock, looking over at his wife’s parents.
Daval eventually confessed to beating his wife, strangling her and burning her body in the forest after initially reporting her missing.
The charred remains of Alexia Daval were found hidden under branches near her town of Gray-la-Ville in eastern France in October 2017. Daval initially said that Alexia, a 29-year-old bank employee, had gone out for a run and never comeback.
Jean-Pierre Fouillot, Alexia’s father, put an arm around his wife Isabelle’s shoulders when the court’s decision was issued. A few minutes later, the mother, Isabelle Fouillot, came out to speak to reporters, as she had done throughout the trial.
“It is a very good decision, exactly what I expected, at the height of our suffering. That will allow us to turn the page, ”he said.
Defense attorney Ornella Spatafora quickly indicated that there would be no appeal against the sentence. Outside the courthouse, dozens of people were pressed against the barriers that blocked access. Prosecutors had called for a life sentence and called the 2017 murder “a near-perfect marital crime.”
After the death of his wife, Daval had had a distressed figure, appearing crying at a press conference with his in-laws and leading one of several events organized across the country in his memory.
Three months later, prosecutors said the IT worker confessed to the murder, admitting that he had struck his wife in a heated argument, striking her in the face against a concrete wall and strangling her.
He initially denied setting his body on fire, but finally admitted it as well in June of last year. Daval changed his story several times, at one point he withdrew his confession, blamed his brother-in-law, and finally admitted everything again.
On Monday, when asked by the judge if he admitted “being the only person involved in the death” of his wife, Daval answered “yes”, seeming to be on the verge of tears.
The crime deeply shocked France and nearly 10,000 people flocked to the couple’s quiet town for a silent march in their memory.
The murder highlighted the scourge of violence against women at the height of the #MeToo global campaign against sexual abuse and harassment of women.
On Monday, French authorities said 125,840 women were victims of domestic violence in 2019. Another 146 were killed by their partner or ex-partner, 25 more than the previous year.
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