Former priest sentenced to life for killing lover, babies

The Maumere District Court in Sikka regency, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), sentenced former Catholic priest Herman Jumad Masan to life after finding him guilty of killing his lover, Merry Grace, and their two infants.

Presiding judge Beslin Sihombing said the panel of judges could not hand down the death penalty sought by prosecutors.

"Let the defendant contemplate, think and reflect [on his crimes]. This is already an appropriate punishment for him," he told reporters after delivering the verdict.

Merry's relatives said they were satisfied with the verdict. One of them, Martono Duran, said the verdict was fair, appropriate and relative to Herman's crimes.

Earlier, Merry's relatives demanded the death sentence for Herman.

Agung Raka Putra Dharmana from Maumere Prosecutor's Office told The Jakarta Post that prosecutors were still deciding if they would appeal.

Herman was found guilty of premeditated murder in the slaying of Merry and the two infants, which were the offspring of an illicit relationship with Merry.

He met Merry in Hokeng in 1995 while serving as a priest. The victim was then a student at Ledalero Catholic Philosophy Institute (STFK).

In 1997, Herman was posted to Lela and Merry worked at the Lela Hospital. They began their relationship in 1998.

In 1998, Merry fell pregnant but kept it secret. In 1999, their first child was born in Herman's room. Together, they gagged the baby until it died and buried it in front of Herman's room, flowers were planted above the grave.

In March 2002, Merry gave birth to their second child. They let the baby die and buried it in front of Herman's room.

After giving birth, Merry suffered a hemorrhage, but she was not taken to a doctor for nine days. She eventually died and was also buried in front of Herman's room.

The case came to light after witness Maria Sofiana related the matter to Father Piter Payong SVD, who was Merry's relative. Maria said she had been directly informed about the former priest's relationship with Merry, the two babies and the mass grave from Herman.

Siflan Angi from the State Conditions Care Forum (Petasan) said the verdict was appropriate as the death sentence was the right of God and humans had no place in taking the lives of others.

Siflan also said the defendant should accept the verdict because if he filed for an appeal, he could simply get the death sentence.

Previously, NGO Vivat International expressed its rejection of the death penalty for Herman because it violated human rights.

In a letter signed by Edward Flynn, Vivat International requested the Indonesian government consider banning capital punishment completely. Sister Eustochia, of the Volunteers for Humanity Flores (Truk-F) Maumere branch, said the letter was submitted to the Maumere District Court on Sunday for consideration.

Vivat International is an NGO with consultative status with the United Nations' Economic and Social Council. The NGO consists of various congregations including the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), the Missionary Sister Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS), the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and the Priests of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus (SCJ).