The husband always seemed like he was crying for her and had even led many events in her memory.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 13, 2021. It has since been updated.
Alexia Daval, a 29-year-old bank employee, had apparently gone jogging and never returned. When the police investigated, they found her charred remains hidden under branches near their town of Gray-la-Ville in eastern France. It was one of the grizzliest murders to have captured the public attention and the pressure on the police to apprehend the killer was immense. Alexia's family was heartbroken but would have never thought that her husband, Jonathann Daval, who was mourning her death beside them, was the culprit all along.
At first, the story the husband had told the police seemed believable, There have been a number of high-profile cases where solo runners were targeted by opportunist attackers. It seemed like Alexia had met the same fate. Daval had always cut a distraught figure, appearing in tears at every press conference with his in-laws. He was even leading one of several events organized countrywide in her memory.
But in a shocking turn of events, Daval confessed to being the culprit. A French court sentenced Daval to 25 years in prison for killing his wife and then burning her body. The 36-year-old had apparently said “Sorry, Sorry” in the dock, looking towards his wife’s parents as they watched in disbelief. Daval confessed to beating his wife and strangling her. He then explained that he had burned her body in the woods after reporting that she was missing, according to The Guardian.
“It is a very good decision, exactly what I hoped, at the height of our suffering. That will allow us to turn a page,” Alexia's mother Isabelle told the press after the court announced its verdict. Prosecutors had asked for a life sentence calling the murder “an almost perfect conjugal crime”. It was reported that Daval had beaten his wife in a heated argument which led to him knocking her face against a concrete wall and strangling her. He had initially denied setting fire to her body but finally admitted to doing that as well.
Daval had changed his story several times, even withdrawing his confession at one instance and blaming his brother-in-law instead. Finally, when asked by the judge whether he admitted to “being the only person implicated in the death” of his wife, Daval replied “yes”, appearing close to tears. The case left France deeply shocked and disturbed. Nearly 10,000 people turned up for a silent march in Alexia's memory, reported The Guardian.