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Judge Sentences Family Killer to Life in Prison

May 02, 1990|From Associated Press

ELIZABETH, N.J. — A judge on Tuesday rejected John Emil List's plea for forgiveness, and ordered the former Sunday school teacher imprisoned for life, saying the voices of his slaughtered family were demanding justice.

"For what he did to his wife, his mother, his daughter, his two sons and for how he traumatized an entire community, (the) defendant should have no hope of breathing the free air that graces the lives of law abiding citizens," Superior Court Judge William Wertheimer said.

The judge sentenced List, 64, to the maximum five consecutive life sentences.

List was convicted April 12 of murdering his wife, Helen, 46; mother, Alma, 84; daughter, Patricia, 16; and sons John, 15, and Frederick, 13, in 1971 in their 18-room mansion in Westfield, 25 miles from New York City.

"John Emil List is without remorse and without honor," Wertheimer said. "After 18 years, 5 months and 22 days, it is now time for the voices of Helen, Alma, Patricia, Frederick and John F. List to rise from the grave, for it is the criminal justice system, through its trial courts, that speaks for all victims of crime."

List, who eluded authorities for 18 years before a television show led to his capture in Virginia in June, must serve 14 years and 11 months of each life sentence. There was no death penalty in New Jersey at the time of the killings.

"I wish to inform the court I remain truly sorry for the tragic events of 1971," List said in his first public statement on the slayings. "I feel that because of my mental state at the time, I was unaccountable for what happened. I ask all affected by this for their forgiveness, understanding and prayer."

Prosecutor Eleanor Clark mocked List's plea for mercy, saying he showed none to his family.

"The state of New Jersey and the citizens of Union County want to say to John E. List that just because you had financial problems, just because your wife was ill and just because your children were adolescents, we do not understand and will not understand what you did," she said.

Wertheimer agreed, noting that experts in the trial said List still suffers from a compulsive-obsessive personality and might repeat his crimes if he were ever returned to the community.

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