(CNN) A South African judge sentenced Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius to six years in prison for his girlfriend’s murder — the latest ruling in a drawn-out case that has transfixed the nation for years.
Pistorius killed Reeva Steenkamp at his home in an upscale Pretoria neighbourhood in the early hours of Valentine’s Day three years ago — a killing he says was an accident, after he mistook her for an intruder, but one the prosecution called a deliberate act after the two had an argument.
The same judge originally convicted him of manslaughter in 2014 after months of hearings, but a higher court reversed that to murder last year, leading to the sentencing today (Wednesday).
Oscar Pistorius (abcnews.com photo)
Barring an appeal, it will be the final sentencing in a saga that started when Pistorius fired four bullets through his bathroom door on that fateful morning in February 2013.
From hero to killer
Despite a series of hearings, questions remain about exactly what happened at 4 a.m. that morning. Stunned fans have wondered how the celebrated former Olympian and Paralympic gold medalist turned into a killer.
The prosecution has said that Pistorius had a violent streak, and that he murdered his lover after a late-night argument. But the judge said there was no evidence supporting the accusation that the two had a fight.
The defense has always maintained that the amputee track star mistakenly believed Steenkamp was an intruder and feared for his life when he shot through the door.
While the opposing sides offer different versions of what happened, one thing is certain: Pistorius will not be a free man for a long time.
And it’s not the first time he’s going to prison in Steenkamp’s killing.
Guilty of manslaughter
After a nearly 50-day trial stretched over seven months, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide (much like manslaughter) in September 2014.
Judge Thokozile Masipa ruled the sprinter had acted negligently when he shot Steenkamp, but that he didn’t do it intentionally, and sentenced him to five years in prison.
He served a year of that sentence, and was released to house arrest in October.
But the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the verdict last December, and found him guilty of murder. The appeals judge said Pistorius should have known that firing his gun would have killed whoever was behind the door, regardless of who he thought it was.