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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rock Star Sentenced to 8 Years

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- A Lithuanian court Monday found French rock star Bertrand Cantat guilty of beating his movie-star girlfriend to death and sentenced him to eight years in prison in a case that has gripped and horrified many French.

The 40-year-old lead singer of one of France's most popular bands, Noir D?sir (Black Desire), was charged with manslaughter for killing 41-year-old French actress Marie Trintignant in a hotel room in Lithuania's capital last July.

The three-judge panel at the Vilnius District Court could have handed Cantat a maximum 15-year sentence.

The love affair between the two artists was once the focus of public fascination in France, where fans were shaken by the killing in Vilnius. Trintignant, who often played brutalized women in more than 30 French- and several English-language films, was in Lithuania making a film when the two had the fatal dispute in their hotel.

More than 50 reporters and photographers, mostly French, packed into the breezy, white-pillared courtroom to cover the trial last week.

During the trial, Cantat admitted he tussled with Trintignant, but insisted her death was a tragic accident.

"We loved each other and our love was growing," he told the court as he was questioned by judges, tears welling in his eyes.

Cantat did not enter a clear not-guilty plea, something that is not required in the Baltic state's judicial system.

Family and friends of both Cantat and Trintignant attended, including the actress' mother, Nadine Trintignant. Cantat's mother and father, as well as members of his band, sat nearby.

Cantat was cleanshaven and seemingly calm throughout the trial -- in stark contrast to his appearance last year at a pretrial hearing where he looked disheveled and dejected.

The multimillionaire singer, held in the Tsarist-era Lukiskes Prison since his arrest eight months ago, told judges he slapped Trintignant four times in a drunken stupor -- contradicting prosecutors who said he fatally punched her at least 19 times in a jealous rage.

"Everything happened very fast," he said during the trial. "Never, never did I want things to happen that way. This hand should never have risen. And I do not accept myself having raised this hand."

An ambulance was called to the hotel at around 7:30 a.m., by which time Trintignant had already been in a coma for two hours. While still in a coma and on life support, she was flown by private jet days later to France -- where she died Aug. 1.

Her death prompted public soul-searching in France about violence against women. While some rallied to the singer-poet's defense, he was reviled by others. His house in France was recently destroyed by fire in mysterious circumstances, with many believing it was a revenge attack for Trintignant's death.