Couple beats murder charge, still headed to prison

By Chuck Weber email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX)-A West Boca Raton couple has beat the first degree murder charges against them in the death of Kerstin Fenn's 89-year old mother, Elly Lorey. Prosecutors said Kerstin, and her husband Toby, starved the woman to death. But jurors found the Fenn's guilty of a lesser offense.

The elderly woman died at the couple's West Boca home in 2005. Deputies said they found deplorable conditions in the woman's room. The Fenn's lawyers argued to jurors that she died naturally of Alzheimer's Disease.

As the verdicts were read in court, Kerstin Fenn closed her eyes and could be seen saying "thank you" as turned toward jurors. Kerstin and Toby were looking at automatic sentences of life in prison if convicted of first degree murder.

Instead jurors decided on the lesser included offense of culpable negligence, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year. On a second charge of aggravated abuse of the elderly, jurors again settled on a lesser, abuse of the elderly, a third degree felony with a maximum of five years in prison.

Shortly after the verdicts were announced, Judge Stephen Rapp held a sentencing hearing.

"Thank you for putting up with this fiasco that we've been going through," said Toby Fenn, addressing Judge Rapp. "I'd like to let you know my wife and myself never, ever, once hurt my mom. We cared for her every day. We never neglected her."

Two of Elly Lorey's sons, from Austria, speaking in German, asked the judge for the couple's immediate release. The couple had already spent three years in jail, waiting for trial.

Judge Rapp decided on a sentence of five years in prison. The Fenn's get credit for time served.

Toby's lawyer, Michael Salnick, said he expected the couple would be eligible for release in another year. He said he was pleased with the outcome. The Fenn's relatives declined comment following the hearing.