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American Fanelli sentenced to 10 years for Phuket bar girl murder



PHUKET: American Ronald “Mad Yank” Fanelli has been sentenced to 10 years and three months imprisonment for the stabbing murder of bar hostess Wanphen Pienjai last year.

Phuket Provincial Prison Director Rapin Nichanon today confirmed that the court’s decision was handed down on Tuesday.

The sentence will be reduced by the 471 days Fanelli has already been detained, he added.

Fanelli has the right to appeal the decision, although details of the conditions of an appeal have yet to be announced.

“Under policy, Phuket Prison accommodates prisoners serving sentences up to 15 years, so he can stay here if chooses to.

“However, he has the right to contact his embassy and apply to be transferred to another prison, such as Klong Prem Prison in Bangkok, which would be more convenient for him if he wants to stay in regular contact with embassy officials,” Chief Rapin said.

“He returned from Suan Saranrom Hospital in Surat Thani only a few days ago. This was the second time he was sent there for psychiatric treatment. The first time he spent many months receiving treatment there,” he added.

In March this year, Fanelli told the Phuket Gazette in an exclusive interview that conditions at the overcrowded Phuket Prison were making him ill.

Phuket Prison is currently home to nearly 1,600 prisoners. The facility was originally designed to house about 1,000 inmates.

During the interview, Fanelli said that overcrowding at the prison had led to a lack of cleanliness that caused him to contract scabies and other infections.

He added that he continued to suffer from “the stress of having to watch out for my own physical safety as well as that of my friends who are weaker than me.”

At a press conference in July last year, Fanelli confessed to killing Miss Pienjai by stabbing her, but said it was an “accident”.

Presented by police at the same press conference were items to be used as evidence to show that Fanelli disposed of Miss Pienjai’s body by stuffing it into a large suitcase – posthumously breaking both of her legs.

He carried the suitcase by motorbike and dumped it in a remote part of Phuket’s Wichit sub-district, several kilometers from his rented home.

Fanelli, who was a professional poker player, earned the name “Mad Yank” among fellow players for his often boisterous demeanor.

Columnist Victoria Coren wrote an article in the British newspaper The Guardian, about her friendship with Fanelli when he was participating in poker competitions.

To see video of Ronald Fanelli confessing to the killing of Ms Pienjai, click here.

— Atchaa Khamlo


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