Oscar Pistorius Gets Five Years for Killing Girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

Oct 21, 2014 at 7:53 AM ET

Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee South African sprinter who captured the world’s attention by competing against nondisabled athletes in the 2012 Summer Olympics, was sentenced to five years in prison today for the killing of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius, 27, who once garnered headlines for his athletic perseverance, sat stone-faced in court in Pretoria as the judge announced the verdict in a trial that has captivated South Africa and the world.

Last month Judge Thokozile Masipa acquitted Pistorius of murder, but found him guilty of illegal firearms charges and culpable homicide, which is the equivalent of manslaughter in South Africa.

The track star claims that he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder on Valentine’s Day 2013 when he fired four rounds at her with a handgun through a bathroom stall at his apartment. When he realized his mistake, Pistorius says he tried to resuscitate her, but to no avail.

Pistorius’ rocky relationship with Steenkmap, a 29-year-old model, was on full display in the sensational trial, which tarnished the reputation of a man who once garnered fame for successfully winning a legal battle that allowed him to compete against nondisabled athletes in the Olympics.

Before the 2012 summer games, Pistorius set a number of Paralympic records and earned the nickname “The Blade Runner” because he runs on prosthetic legs. Before Pistorius earned the right to compete in the Olympics, some critics said his prosthetics gave him an unfair advantage, a claim that largely dissipated after Pistorius failed to win a medal.

After the verdict was announced, Pistorius’ lawyers said the South African track star may spend only 10 months behind bars before finishing his sentence under house arrest, though the prosecution placed that figure at two years. Pistorius, legal experts say, can apply for parole after serving half his sentence. Steenkamp’s family told reporters that the ruling was satisfactory.

During the sentencing process, Pistorius’ resilience and physical fitness seemed to hurt his case. While the defense maintained that the South African prison system isn’t prepared to handle the sprinter’s physical disability, the judge dismissed such claims, saying, “He excelled as an athlete…even going to compete against able-bodies athletes.” The judge added that Pistorius’ lawyers have placed “an over-emphasis on the accused’s vulnerability.”