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Killer of American Biologist Receives Sentence of Life in Prison

Dr. Suzanne Eaton of Germany’s Max-Planck Institute. File photo

The convicted killer of Dr. Suzanne Eaton, the 60-year-old American biologist who was raped and mudered and left in an abandoned Nazi bunker in Crete received a life sentence plus thirteen years in the crime.

After being convicted of the killing by a 6-to-1 margin, the sentencing phase for Pantelis Zelios went smoothly. There was no leniency extended for good behavior and the convicted killer was sent to prison immediately.

The prosecutor had asked for a life sentence plus 15 years for rape and a 100-euro fine for the misdemeanor possession of a firearm.

Zelios’ defense team had asked for reduced imputation, saying that the killer had had no understanding of “the significance of his actions.” Their pleas were unheeded, however, after experts testified that he was quite aware of exactly what he was doing.

The killer had admitted to the murder last year during his arraignment but continued to claim that it had been an accident, and he had not raped the American biologist.

The prosecutor would have none of that, charging that “The victim was accidentally located by the accused, followed her in his car and shot her with it. She passed while she was already on the road and again above her in the car. She suffered multiple fractures to her chest, ribs and head and had her ear cut off.

“Then he put her in the car, in the trunk, and transported her to the spot in Kalamaki. “While she was alive, he had intercourse by force.”

He went on to state that “the accused threw her from a height of 7 meters. Her body got stuck at one point and so she died of suffocation. The lifeless body of the unfortunate woman was then found by volunteer explorers.

“The fact that he cleaned the car after the incident and the sampling material from the cameras, in combination with the genetic material of the deceased in the accused’s shoe, the blood on the umbrella with which the corpse was wrapped, prove that he did the act.” the prosecutors charged.

Renowned biologist worked at Max-Planck Institute in Dresden

Eaton, originally from California, was living and working at the Max-Planck Institute in Desden, Germany when she was killed. The mother of two sons, she was married to a British scientist.

Her family members, who had gone to Crete after the crime occurred, returned recently in order to testify at the trial. They had said previously that they wanted the world to remember the molecular biologist “as an acclaimed scientist, talented athlete, musician and beloved mother.”

Husband unable to work

The sister of the murdered woman testified that Eaton’s husband is still receiving psychological help due to the trauma of the crime that was perpetrated on his wife and that he “cannot work” even now, a year and a half after the grisly incident.

Giving her testimony through tears, Julie Eaton told the court that life at home for Dr. Eaton’s family is still extremely difficult, with no one able to accept the fact that she is no longer in their lives.

Speaking of the great help which her sister had given her after the death of her own daughter from cancer six years ago, Eaton said “It was very difficult for me to be here but I came to testify about …how loving my sister was. She was a wonderful wife, mother and sister. I also came to thank the authorities and all the people here who helped with the investigation.”

When asked about the murderes biologist’s husband, Eaton stressed that he is still receiving psychological support. “It is difficult for him to return to work. He is being psychologically supported, but judging by my own experience with the death of my daughter, nothing will be the same. Your whole world is changing,” she explained.

Pantelis Zelios, the 28-year-old defendant, admitted to prosecutors last year at his arraignment that he had intentionally run over Eaton with his car in order to disable and sexually violate her.

He had related calmly and in horrific detail that he had raped and killed Susan Eaton and then taken the authorities to the cave where he had thrown her body. This was the same abandoned WWII-era Nazi bunker that Zelios had shown in previous videos he had posted on social media, featuring bones, some of them appearing to be human femur bones, leaning up against the walls.

After being formally charged at the hearing with both rape and premeditated murder, Zelios had replied “I accept what is valid.”

Testimony from men who located Eaton’s body

The men who were the first to uncover the American scientist’s body testified as to what they saw at the abandoned bunker.

Describing the moment they located her, one of the men told the court “We did not think she was a human being. We could not stay on the spot. We panicked and ran to alert the police immediately.”

Strict security measures at courthouse

The security at the courthouse hearing the Eaton case is being described as “draconian,” with police carrying out thorough checks on all those entering the court. Among them were foreign journalists who are covering the trial.

The accused’s clear admission of rape led to the charge being leveled against him but Zelios’ lawyer maintains that the laboratory tests undertaken by the authorities do not substantiate the charge.

Local media outlet Cretapost has reported that the accused plans to categorically deny the charges.

“It emerged from the confession of the accused. The forensic report cannot reach the time of the victim’s death while at the same time there is a conflict between the laboratory results regarding the rape. All this will be analyzed and will be seen in court,” the defense lawyer commented to reporters.

Grisly confession

The 28-year-old admitted that he had come upon the 60-year-old as she had been jogging in Kolimbari, Chania, and followed her. He then intentionally rammed her with his car in order to disable her, with the intention of raping her.

The court read out the grisly details in their charges today. “He hit her with the left side of his vehicle. The woman fell to her knees and then he (hit) her again, on the head. She fell to the ground and her body went under the car. He … locked her in the front wheels. He saw her severely injured. He had mutilated her ear. She …had her eyes open,” the prosecutor said.

While still alive, Eaton was placed inside the trunk of Zelios’ vehicle and he drove to the area of the abandoned bunker. The court then heard the disturbing accounts of her multiple rapes.

The court also recounted that the alleged rapist and murderer threw Eaton, unconscious, from a height of seven meters into the bunker. It was at that point that Zelios allegedly strangled her, and she died of suffocation.

“The accused was fully aware of his actions. His claim that he practiced black magic and “Solomonic magic,” and that the latter pushed him into action, gives the impression of a mental disorder,” the court explained in today’s testimony.

However, prosecutors said, “it is impossible (for the perpetrator) not to realize what he was doing” since his movements were purposeful and “methodical.”


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