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Sandra Pagniano – Arizona Man Gets Life in Prison for Burying Wife Alive in Shallow Grave

An Arizona man pleaded guilty at the last minute to burying his wife alive in a shallow grave and was sentenced to life without parole. Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane had been seeking the death penalty for David Michael Pagniano, 62, in the death of 39-year-old Sandra Pagniano, before Pagniano’s sudden plea, leaving his fate at the hands of the judge, who passed sentence on May 9.

“Sandra was kidnapped from her home while her children slept nearby, bound in packing tape, driven to a remote location and buried alive,” McGrane said in a statement. “The evidence revealed she vigorously struggled while she was in the grave, and was likely conscious for up to five minutes after being buried. I hope the life sentence brings some closure to the victim’s family.”

McGrane said that the Pagnianos were going through a contentious divorce at the time of the murder in May 2017. After an extensive search, investigators found Sandra Pagniano’s body “in a hand-dug grave in a remote area north of Prescott.”

Cell phone data put David Pagniano in the area in the days before his wife’s disappearance and on the night she went missing. Additionally, he filed two notes in their divorce proceeding that he said his wife had written, saying she was leaving and giving her husband custody of her cars, the house, and the children.

Analysis, however, determined the notes were written by David Pagniano.

In addition to the life sentence for the murder, Pagniano was sentenced to 16 1/2 years in prison for kidnapping, forgery, and fraud.