VIENNA - Authors of crime fiction could learn a thing or two from the way Estibaliz Carranza describes the actions she was accused of committing. The owner of an ice cream parlor in the Austrian capital, she has admitted to first shooting her former husband, and two years later, her lover, sawing up their bodies, and covering the body parts in cement.
From the standpoint of the defense, the actions of Carranza were the result of physical and psychological abuse she suffered at the hands of the victims. On Thursday, the court sentenced her to life in a secure mental institution for the crimes.
Some of the accounts of the goings-on given in the courtroom have made the judge, jury members and audience laugh -- even if it the kind of laughter that sticks in the throat.
At one point, the judge asked a witness if Carranza had ever mentioned to her the possibility of killing her partners. Yes, several times, the witness said cheerfully -- but it was just chatter, the sort of things friends say to each other. Once "Esti" said she wanted to throw her husband off a mountain but not before she’d signed a life insurance contract so that it would be worth her while. Another time she said she’d stab him to death and then cover the body with kitty litter so it wouldn’t stink.
Irritated, the judge asked the witness if she didn’t think remarks like that were strange. No, the witness replied, it was just a bit of fun: all women said things like that about their men.
Even if that were so – acting on it is something else. Carranza, 34, is accused of shooting her ex-husband in the back of his head as he sat at his computer, and firing four shots at her subsequent partner as he lay sleeping (and snoring). Each time, she used a power saw to cut them up into pieces, and then covered the body parts in cement. The blocks were stored in a freezer in the cellar of her business in the Vienna district of Meidling.
The trial, which Austria’s tabloids refer to as the "Kellerleichen-Prozess" (cellar corpse trial) or the "Eislady-Morde" (ice lady murders), concluded Thursday with a guilty verdict. Her lawyer has vowed to appeal. The position of the defense was that the defendant’s actions were the result of abuse by the men: her husband, who didn’t want to have children with her and refused to move out after their divorce, and her partner who was a womanizer and hounded her to return some money that he had lent her.
Still, the now former owner of the Schleckeria Eissalon pleaded guilty in court. She also said that she "felt miserable" after firing the fatal shots.
Psychiatrist and court-appointed expert Adelheid Kastner stated that Carranza, who is a Mexican and Spanish dual national, suffered from a personality disorder and was to be considered "particularly dangerous."
Plastic surgery and power saw lessons
The defendant, diminutive and quite attractive, underwent plastic surgery several times in an attempt to make herself more pleasing to both men. Some witnesses described Carranza as calculating and cold, while others said she was submissive and insecure. During the trial, she sat silently and apathetically although she did nod gratefully as a friend described the abuse from her husband and lover.
Her own descriptions of the crimes are particularly detailed and dramatic. She had a hard time disposing of the body of the first victim, who weighed 130 kilos (287 lbs), she said: the smell of blood and decay just would not go away. That’s why she bought the power saw. A salesperson at the DIY store explained how to use it. She sawed the body up into pieces that weighed four or five kilos (9 to 11 lbs) each, and stored them in a freezer. When the lease expired on the basement storeroom the freezer was in, she covered the body parts in cement, put them back in the freezer unit, and had it moved to another location.
The body parts were discovered accidentally in June 2011 by construction workers. Carranza had told differing stories to account for the disappearance of the two men, another witness said – for example, that they had moved to the South Pacific with a young girlfriend, or that they had dealings with the Mafia that didn’t turn out well for them.
Just one day after the second murder, Carranza had a date with a new boyfriend whom she has since married, and to whose child she gave birth while in prison awaiting trial. He refused to testify at the trial and never once looked her way during proceedings.