Man Gets Life Sentence for Brutal Murder

( – A man in Arizona will spend the rest of his life behind bars after burying his wife in a hole he dug himself.

Sandra Pagniano, 39, was still alive when her husband, 62-year-old David Michael Pagniano, buried her near their home in Prescott. The two were undergoing divorce proceedings during the spring of 2017 when she went missing. The pair were still living together with their daughters despite being separated.

Police began investigating the circumstances of her disappearance, eventually leading to a manhunt. She was ultimately found dead in a remote dry riverbed roughly 10 miles from their home. She was bound with tape and gagged. A medical examiner later determined that she was still alive during the burial. Cell phone data would later show that her husband was near the grave site at the time of her death.

Her husband was arrested shortly after and booked on a $2 million bond.

Dennis McGrane, an attorney for Yavapai County, said there was evidence that Sandra struggled desperately after she was buried. He also said officials believe she remained awake for as long as five minutes. His office pushed for the death penalty initially “because of the horrific circumstances.” However, he confessed to the murder the day before his trial was set to begin. He received an additional sentence spanning over 16 years for charges related to kidnapping and fraud. His sentence comes with no possibility of parole.

The fraud and forgery charges came after investigators discovered notes allegedly written by Sandra among the divorce documents. The documents left all of their property to Pagniano, along with custody of their children. The letters were determined to have been written by Sandra, likely by force.

McGrane said he still hopes the lifelong sentence helps the victim’s relatives heal even though he avoided the death penalty. He also promised to continue pursuing the death penalty if any related crimes are committed in his jurisdiction.

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