The convicted killer pastor at the heart of HBO’s new docuseries “Pray, Obey, Kill,” may soon be released from prison.
Helge Fossmo is currently behind bars for his role in the murder of his wife Alexandra Fossmo and the attempted murder of their neighbor Daniel Linde. Both were shot on Jan. 10, 2004 in the small, snowy town of Knutby, Sweden. Alexandra was found in her bed while her Linde suffered, yet survived, multiple gunshot wounds.
The town was home to a small, tight-knit Pentecostal Christian congregation, which became the center of the murder investigation. Helge was a pastor within the group, a sect led by Asa Waldau, who claimed to be engaged to Jesus and was known as "Christ's Bride."
Religion played a twisted role in the shootings, as Fossmo had convinced his family's nanny that God was instructing her to kill Alexandra, prosecutors successfully argued.
“The case gained instant international notoriety when the nanny confessed within days, claiming she was told to commit the acts of violence through a series of text messages from God,” HBO explains in a synopsis of the Swedish-language series.
The nanny, Sara Svensson, explained that she had received text messages that Fossmo told her had come from God, but which were linked solely to him.
“Suddenly Helge said to me: 'If God were to tell you to kill a human being, would you do it?'" Svensson said during Helge’s trial, the BBC reported in 2004. "I thought it was a very strange question, but thought that if I really knew it was God saying it, I would have to obey. There would be no alternative.”
Svensson was in an apparent slave-master relationship with Fossmo, according to the docuseries. He was also allegedly having an affair with Annette Linde, the wife of his neighbor Daniel who was wounded in the attack.
Investigators also discovered that Helge’s first wife died in 1999 under suspicious circumstances. She was found dead in a bathtub, her body containing a toxic amount of the opioid dextropropoxyphene, according to a 2004 report from the Norwegian outlet Aftenposten. However, the death was ultimately ruled accidental.
“Pray, Obey, Kill” dives into the bizarre case, following investigative journalists Anton Berg and Martin Johnson as they re-examine the murders and the community in which they occurred. It also considers the possibility that Helge might have been wrongfully convicted, as he himself claims in the series. He's said it was Waldau, who maintained tight control over the religious community, who instructed Svensson to kill.
While Svensson was placed in psychiatric care until 2011 — when a Swedish court decided she was unlikely to offend again — Helge faced more dire consequences, being convicted of incitement to murder and incitement to attempted murder. He sentenced to life in prison in 2004.
He has served 17 years of his life sentence, but it doesn't appear that the former pastor will be spending the rest of his life behind bars. Helge’s sentence was changed to 26 years in 2019, according to Swedish outlet Expressen. This means he can be granted parole after two thirds of his sentence is served. He’s expected to be released in early 2022.
While behind bars, Helge found a new wife who wrote to him via letter. They married in 2007, according to the Swedish news site Aftonbladet.
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