Image: Josef Fritzl
Anonymous  /  AP file
A photo released by Austrian police on April 28 shows Josef Fritzl, who prosecutors say imprisoned his daughter for 24 years and fathered her seven children.
updated 11/13/2008 12:21:21 PM ET 2008-11-13T17:21:21

An Austrian man accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years and fathering her seven children has been charged with murder, prosecutors said Thursday, contending one of the offspring who died in infancy might have survived if treated.

Josef Fritzl, 73, also was charged with rape, incest, false imprisonment and slavery, said the state attorney's office in St. Poelten, west of Vienna.

"Despite recognizing the baby's life-threatening situation, he deliberately decided not to intervene" and get the ailing infant to a doctor, prosecutors said in their 27-page indictment.

Fritzl confessed
Investigators say Fritzl has confessed to imprisoning and repeatedly raping his daughter Elisabeth — now age 42 — in a warren of windowless cellar rooms he built beneath his home starting in 1984, shortly after she turned 18.

Police say Fritzl told them he tossed the body of the infant who died into a furnace in 1996. They say DNA tests have confirmed he is the biological father of the six surviving children.

The retired electrician is expected to go on trial early in 2009.

If convicted of the murder charge, Fritzl would face life imprisonment, which in Austria typically means 15 years' confinement. Austria, like other European countries, has no death penalty.

Prosecutors also said it will be the first time that an Austrian is tried on a slavery charge. Video: Confession

Authorities say Fritzl brought three of the surviving six children upstairs to live otherwise normal lives, and claimed to neighbors that his daughter — who he said had run away to join a religious cult — had left them on the family's doorstep.

Investigators say three other children remained imprisoned along with their mother until last April, when one of the youths — a teenage girl — became ill and was taken to a hospital.

Fritzl imprisoned his daughter and the children beneath his apartment building in Amstetten, 120 miles west of Vienna. Police say they have no evidence to suggest that his wife was complicit.

His daughter, the children and Fritzl's wife have been getting counseling at an undisclosed location.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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