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"Serial strangler" gets life in prison for murder

The defendant admitted to strangling a 52-year-old woman in Helsinki in April. He had previous criminal convictions that also involved strangling his victims.

Sarjakuristaja Michael Penttilä Helsingin käräjäoikeudessa.
So-called "serial Strangler" Michael Penttilä at the Helsinki District Court on Tuesday, 10 July. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

The Helsinki District Court found defendant Michael Penttilä guilty of the murder of a 52-year-old woman whose body was discovered at her home in Helsinki in April this year.

The court sentenced Penttilä to life in prison on the conviction in Wednesday.

Penttilä’s defence team had requested a psychiatric evaluation but the court rejected the application.

The court ruled that Penttilä had undergone several assessments but since 1986 had not been found to be criminally incapable or even to have impaired responsibility. The court reasoned that this made the appeal for an evaluation unfounded.

Penttilä admitted to manslaughter in the strangling death of the woman at her Helsinki Alppiharju home in April, but contested the murder charge brought against him.

However the court ruled that Penttilä’s actions constituted murder, in that he killed the woman with premeditation, in a particularly brutal and cruel manner and it said that as a whole that act was egregious.

The murder sentence means that the court upheld the prosecution’s demands.

An “intimate massage”

Penttilä said he visited the woman’s home for an “intimate massage”. The defendant and victim did not know each other. According to the court the convicted man had acquired a prepaid phone number to conceal his identity and to carry out the crime.

The court found that Penttilä throttled the victim with his bare hands, a leather belt and pantyhose and that she died in six to eight minutes.

After completing the deed, Penttilä dragged the woman’s body to her bedroom and hid it under the bed, where it was not found for several weeks.

A dark history of crime

Michael Maria Penttilä had been previously convicted for violent crime on 10 other occasions, many of which involved strangling.

On the basis of previous psychiatric evaluations and as well as a danger assessment, Penttilä was deemed to be extremely dangerous and the threat of recidivism or repeating his offences was also determined to be high. Statements heard in court indicated that his modus operandus involves the throttling of victims who are usually women previously unknown to him.

Penttilä has three previous convictions for homicide. In the 1980s he was convicted for strangling his mother and a 12-year-old girl. The charges in both cases were aggravated assault, homicide and manslaughter.

In the 1990s, the defendant lured a woman into his mother’s home and killed her by strangling her.

In April, the appeal court slapped Penttilä with a two-year-six-month prison sentence for plotting a crime that would result in aggravated endangerment to life or health. The appeal court said Penttilä had drawn up a detailed plan to strangle a 17-year-old young woman.

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