Statement By Attorney General Eliot Spitzer Regarding The Albert Fentress Case
The case that ended abruptly today dates back to1998 when Albert Fentress -- a former high school teacher who admitted torturing and killing a student and consuming his body parts -- demanded that a jury decide whether he should be released from a state-operated psychiatric center. A trial was held in April 1999 and resulted in a jury verdict that would have released Fentress to live in a group home.
Lawyers in my Suffolk County Regional Office moved to have this unfortunate verdict set aside. We argued strenuously that the verdict was inconsistent with the evidence and that Fentress was too dangerous to be released in the community. As a result of our motion, the judge reversed the jury's decision and Fentress was not released. Fentress then appealed the decision and, ultimately, the Appellate Division sent the case back to the trial court for a second trial.
It was only during this second trial that crucial information concerning Fentress' past came to our attention. An individual came forward to describe Fentress' history of sexual abuse. This information completely undermined Fentress' claim that the killing was an isolated incident and that he had never abused anyone else. It demonstrated conclusively that Fentress had lied to his doctors, his lawyers and the court. The account from this individual was directly responsible for Fentress withdrawing his petition for release.
The man who came forward is a true hero. His only interest was to protect others from being victimized by Fentress. He came forward despite great pain to himself and his family. He deserves our enduring respect and gratitude.
I also want to thank the Dutchess County District Attorney's office as well as Assistant Attorney General Denis McElligott for excellent lawyering in this case.