06/13/2024

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Left: David Michael Pagniano. Right: Sandra Pagniano. (Images via Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.)

Husband who buried wife alive in ‘hand-dug’ grave gets life behind bars

Left: David Michael Pagniano. Right: Sandra Pagniano. (Images via Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.)

The Arizona man who buried his wife alive in a hand-dug grave some 10 miles from their home will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

David Michael Pagniano, 62, has received a life sentence for the murder of his wife, 39-year-old Sandra Pagniano. The couple shared two children, and they were going through a “contentious divorce” at the time of her murder. She was killed in May 2017.

The details of Sandra Pagniano’s death are brutal.

“Sandra was kidnapped from her home while her children slept nearby, bound in packing tape, driven to a remote location and buried alive,” the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office said in a press release Friday. “The evidence revealed she vigorously struggled while she was in the grave, and was likely conscious for up to five minutes after being buried.”

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    Sandra Pagniano’s body “was found bound and gagged in packing tape in a hand-dug grave in a remote area north of Prescott, Arizona,” the county attorney’s press release says. Cellphone evidence showed David Pagniano had been in the area days before his wife went missing and the night of the kidnapping.

    Prosecutors say that David Pagniano tried to forge notes to cover for his wife’s disappearance.

    “Detectives recovered two notes that were filed in the divorce proceeding after Sandra’s disappearance, purportedly written by Sandra, that said she was leaving and giving Pagniano her vehicles, house, and custody of their children,” the press release said. “A forensic examination of the notes revealed they had actually been written by Pagniano.”

    She was reported missing on May 21, 2017, after having last been seen days earlier on May 19, when she didn’t show up for a planned social event, according to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.

    The grim discovery of her remains was made on May 26, 2017 — after David Pagniano had been arrested and charged with her murder. He did not help with the search.

    “The suspect continued to deny any knowledge of her whereabouts,” the sheriff’s office noted.

    County Attorney Dennis McGrane said that prosecutors sought the death penalty in the case “because of the horrific circumstances surrounding the abduction and murder of a young mother.”

    David Pagniano, however, decided to plead guilty “[o]n the eve of trial” without a plea deal and opted to “let the judge decide his sentence.”

    In addition to the life sentence, Pagniano was also sentenced to more than 16 years for kidnapping, forgery, and fraud schemes.

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    The post Husband who buried wife alive in ‘hand-dug’ grave gets life behind bars first appeared on Law & Crime.