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Arizona man sentenced to life in prison for murder of wife who ‘struggled vigorously’ after being buried alive, prosecutors say

An Arizona man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2017 death of his wife, who was buried alive in a hand-dug grave near their home while their children slept. authorities announced.

Seven years after the murder, David Pagniano decided to plead guilty before his trial began and allowed a judge to determine his sentence without a plea agreement.

Pagniano, 62, was also sentenced May 9 to 16 1/2 years in prison for kidnapping, forgery and fraud, according to the Yavapai County Prosecutor’s Office.

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David Pagniano

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office


County Attorney Dennis McGrane said in a statement that his office pursued the death penalty because of the “horrific circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and murder” of Sandra Pagniano.

“Sandra was kidnapped from her home while her children slept nearby, bound in duct tape, driven to a remote location and buried alive,” McGrane said. “Evidence revealed that she struggled vigorously while in the grave and was likely conscious for up to five minutes after being buried.”

Authorities said Sandra Pagniano, 39, disappeared while in the process of divorcing her husband in May 2017.

They said she and David Pagniano were separated but still lived in the same house with their two young daughters.

Sandra Pagniano’s body was found bound and gagged with duct tape in a grave in a rural area north of Prescott and the county medical examiner’s office confirmed she had been buried alive.

County sheriff’s officials said phone evidence showed David Pagniano was in the area of ​​the grave days before his wife’s disappearance and the night of the kidnapping.

Detectives recovered two notes filed in the divorce case after Sandra Pagniano’s disappearance, allegedly written by her.

The notes indicated that she was leaving David Pagniano and entrusting him with her vehicles, her home and custody of their children.

But authorities said a forensic examination of the notes revealed they were written by David Pagniano.

A grand jury indicted him on first-degree murder charges after his wife’s body was discovered in a remote area 10 miles northwest of the couple’s home near Prescott in north-central Arkansas. Arizona.

“I hope the life sentence provides some closure for the victim’s family,” McGrane said.

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