Windhoek-The then teenager who was convicted of the murder of both his parents in 2013 and sentenced to an effective 48 years behind bars scored a mild reprieve in the Namibian Supreme Court yesterday after his 48 years behind bars was commuted to 42 years imprisonment by three judges of appeal.
Romeo Schiefer was found guilty by Judge Shivute of the murder of his mother and father, Frans and Francina Schiefer (both 50), in their home in Khomasdal in Windhoek on January 18, 2008. Frans died of a shot in the head while sleeping in his bed and Francina died after she was repeatedly stabbed with a knife and shot at least nine times. During the sentencing, Judge Shivute said the case was arguably the most horrific she ever had presided over, as the murders were committed in a vicious manner and the deceased were killed in cold-blooded execution-style.
She further found that Romeo did not show any remorse and that the only mitigating factors in his favour was that he is a first offender and that he had spent a long time in custody awaiting the finalisation of his trial.
With regard to his youthfulness when he committed the crimes – he was two months shy of his 19th birthday – the judge could not ignore the fact that two innocent lives were taken away for no apparent reason. “The terror and anguish they had endured at the hands of their own son is unimaginable,” she said before adding that a lengthy custodial sentence was inevitable.
According to Acting Judge of Appeal Elton Hoff, who wrote the judgment with Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb and Acting Judge of Appeal Dave Smuts in agreement, he cannot fault the judge for emphasising the retributive and preventative (deterrent) aims of punishment at the expense of the reformative and rehabilitative aims.
With regard to the argument of Adv Winnie Christiaans, who appeared on behalf of Schiefer, that the trial judge overemphasised the circumstances of the murder, Judge Hoff said it was without merit, as there were no eye-witnesses to the murders and Romeo refused to take the court into his confidence to shed light on what exactly transpired.
He further stated that the trial judge was entitled to put more emphasis on the interests of society and less on the personal circumstances of the accused and that he did not find any support for the contention by Christiaans that the trial judge ignored the personal circumstances of the accused or only paid “lip service thereto”.
In respect of the argument that the cumulative effect of the sentence, including the time spent trial awaiting, was severe and that the sentence the Supreme Court would have imposed would differ remarkably from the sentence imposed by the trial court, Judge Hoff said while he agreed that a long term of imprisonment was called for, he would have ordered a longer period to run concurrently.
The proposed sentence, he said, differs so markedly with the sentence imposed by the trial court that it attracts the “epithet of strikingly or startlingly or patently inappropriate that it justifies interference by the Supreme Court”.
He confirmed the sentences imposed, but ordered that 14 instead of eight years on the second count run concurrently with the sentence on count 1. Romeo had petitioned the Chief Justice after his initial application for leave to appeal both conviction and sentence was refused by Judge Shivute. He was given leave to appeal only the sentence by the Supreme Court.
Adv Antonia Verhoef represented the State in the original trial and the appeal hearing.