Satanist convicted of murdering priest

COLMAR, France -- A Frenchman who admitted to stabbing a priest 33 times in a flash of ``satanic'' fury was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday.

David Oberdorf, an alleged active Satanist who decorated his home with portraits of Adolf Hitler and French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, was convicted of murdering 68-year-old priest Jean Uhl in a gruesome attack in December 1996.

Oberdorf, 18 at the time of the murder, immediately asked for forgiveness when his trial opened Monday in Colmar, eastern France, saying he could not understand what he had done.

``I know that I did it, but I still cannot believe it. I hope that this trial will allow me to free my spirit 100 percent,'' he told the court. ``I ask the family of Father Uhl to forgive me.''

A second man, Stephane Frest, was sentenced to one year in prison, with eight months suspended, for helping Oberdorf hide evidence of the late-night killing in Uhl's rectory.

According to the local press, Oberdorf told police he was possessed by the devil and ``had a satanic flash'' before the murder. The 33 stab wounds were meant to signify the age of Jesus Christ when he was crucified. Prosecuting attorney Jean Lorenz told the court the priest had suffered agony for 45 minutes as blood filled his lungs.

The court heard that Oberdorf was brought up by a drunken grandfather after his parents divorced and was deeply shaken when he discovered at the age of 13 that his father was homosexual.

He did poorly in school and became a fan of heavy metal music which evoked devil worship and death.

At this time he befriended devoted Satanist Anthony Mignoni, two years his senior, who was said to have dominated Oberdorf through his superior intelligence, though he did not incite him to murder.

``Mignoni told me to ignore and to kill everything that represented Christianity,'' Oberdorf testified. ``I took it for his personal belief, I don't think he was trying to tell me to commit these acts.''

The burly, dark-haired Mignoni was called as a witness in the trial but no charges were filed against him.

Earlier this week, Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Dore of Strasbourg urged the court to be merciful, saying Oberdorf had changed since the murder.