Man murdered wife by burying her alive

An Arizona man who buried his wife alive in a hand-dug grave near their home has been jailed for life.

Seven years after the killing, David Pagniano pleaded guilty to murdering his wife before his trial was due to start and allowed a judge to determine his sentence without a plea agreement.

The 62-year-old was handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole, meaning he will die in prison.

He was also sentenced on 9 May to 16-and-a-half years for kidnapping, forgery and fraud, according to the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office.

“My office pursued the death penalty in this case because of the horrific circumstances surrounding the abduction and murder of a young mother,” County Attorney Dennis McGrane said in a statement.

Authorities said 39-year-old Sandra Pagniano vanished while she was in the process of divorcing her husband in May 2017.

They said the pair were separated but still living in the same home with their two young daughters.

Ms Pagniano’s body was found bound and gagged in packing tape inside a grave in a rural area north of Prescott.

The county medical examiner’s office confirmed she had been buried alive.

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Officials said evidence showed she vigorously struggled while she was in the grave and may have been conscious for up to five minutes.

In addition, mobile phone evidence showed Pagniano was in the gravesite area days before his wife went missing and the night of the kidnapping.

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Detectives recovered two notes that were filed in the divorce case following Mrs Pagniano’s disappearance, purportedly written by her.

The notes said she was leaving her husband and giving him her vehicles, house and custody of their children.

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

A grand jury indicted him on a charge of first-degree murder after his wife’s body was discovered in a remote area 10 miles (16km) northwest of the family home near Prescott in north-central Arizona.

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