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French court finds ex-soldier guilty of child murder

He had already been convicted in 2021 for the murder of a young soldier.

The jury sided with the request of Grenoble prosecutor Jacques Dallest for a maximum sentence. Dallest argued that Lelandais poses a “considerable social danger” despite efforts to rehabilitate in prison, including reading books on Buddhism.

Lelandais will not appeal the decision, his lawyer Alain Jakubowicz said, adding that he had told his client that the girl’s family should not have to suffer any further.

The victim’s parents and sister embraced in the crowded but quiet courtroom.

Lelandais remained calm, but was seen telling his mother, “Everything will be fine.”

Maelys’ age and a lengthy investigation filled with gruesome details have sparked enormous public interest in the case. French media have reported all the details that led to the girl’s murder after Lelandais lured her into his car in the middle of a wedding party in a small town in the Alps.

Maelys’ face, taken from a family photo her mother had seized in court, had become a staple of the evening news.

The girl’s family lawyer, Fabien Rajon, said he was worried for them after 4 and a half years of media exposure, “because on Monday there will be no more microphones, no more cameras and they will stay with their sorrow”. He asked the French to continue with “small gestures… words of support”. They are, he says, a “french family that asks for nothing…the kind of French family that we like”.

The parents, Jennifer and Joachim, and sister Colleen expressed relief at the verdict but all regretted that the exact cause of Maelys’ death was never known, nor whether she was raped.

Lelandais, a dog trainer, broke down in court and admitted luring the girl into his car and hitting her hard ‘three or four times’ when she was crying, but never clarified how she was dead. He said he had no intention of killing Maelys, whom he invited over at 2:40 a.m. to see her dogs. He himself was a last-minute guest at the wedding, supplying some guests with cocaine.

He had earlier led investigators to the site where he buried Maelys, several miles from the wedding party. Investigators were never able to prove that the girl had been raped.

Lelandais, who turned 39 on the day of the verdict, has been described by psychiatric experts as a psychopath, narcissist and pathological liar.

In a statement to the court adjourned to consider the verdict, Lelandais admitted all charges against him and issued an apology.

“I know the families will never accept my apologies, but I offer them with the utmost sincerity,” he said, adding that he understood the “long” period of soul-searching ahead of him which he said , has already started.

Jakubowicz, Lelandais’ lawyer, called his client’s confession at trial “a small glimmer of hope on the road to redemption” and asked the court not to hand down a life sentence.

Lelandais was convicted in 2021 of murdering a hitchhiking soldier after leaving a gay nightclub, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. It was the disappearance of Maelys that put the investigators investigating the disappearance of the soldier on the trail of Lelandais.

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