UNITED STATES NEWS

California fugitive sentenced for killing Florida woman in 1984

Nov 17, 2023, 9:20 AM

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A 65-year-old California fugitive who eluded authorities for nearly four decades before his arrest in June has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for killing a Florida woman.

Donald Santini pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a deal with prosecutors to avoid a first-degree murder charge. Circuit Judge Samantha Ward approved the deal before issuing the sentence in Tampa on Thursday, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The case had been set to go to trial in two weeks.

“Good luck,” the judge told Santini, who has been in jail without bond since his arrest in June at his home near San Diego.

”Thank you, Your Honor,” Santini, whose hands were cuffed in front of him, replied.

Before his arrest, Santini had lived in California under the name of Wellman Simmonds. He was president of a local water board in Campo, a tiny suburb of San Diego, and he regularly appeared at public board meetings.

The life he had built in California came to an end thanks to a tip from the Florida/Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force. That led U.S. marshals to Campo, where Santini was taken into custody.

In 1984, Santini was known as Charles Michael Stevens, which was an alias he used to outrun a warrant for a crime committed in Texas. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials said he used at least 13 aliases over the years.

Prosecutors, who were prepared to present new facts about the case to jurors, said Santini was the last person to be seen with Cynthia “Cindy” Ruth Wood, 33, on June 6, 1984, and her body was found in a water-filled ditch three days later.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon said during Thursday’s hearing that Wood told friends and associates she was going on a date on June 5, 1984, and neighbors later told investigators they saw a van parked in her driveway.

Harmon said a woman who was in a relationship with Santini told investigators that he borrowed a van to go on the date.

“He advised that he was taking her on a date to make sure she was intoxicated and then drop her in front of a police station,” Harmon said.

A witness told investigators that Santini had said the family of Wood’s husband paid him to get damaging character evidence, which could be used in a custody battle over the couple’s young children.

Santini told the woman the next morning that he’d killed Wood and dumped her body, Harmon said.

“That witness would have been able to identify the defendant,” Harmon said.

After the hearing, Hillsborough Assistant Public Defender Jamie Kane declined to comment on the case.

United States News

Alito...

Associated Press

Alito rejects calls to quit Supreme Court cases on Trump and Jan. 6 because of flag controversies

Justice Samuel Alito is rejecting calls to step aside from Supreme Court cases involving former President Donald Trump and Jan. 6 defendants, saying his wife hoisted the two controversial flags that flew above their homes.

27 minutes ago

Nissan...

Associated Press

Nissan warns owners of older vehicles about risk of exploding air bag inflators

Nissan is urging the owners of about 84,000 older vehicles to stop driving them because their Takata air bag inflators have an increased risk of exploding in a crash and hurling dangerous metal fragments.

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Seattle police chief dismissed from top job amid discrimination, harassment lawsuits

SEATTLE (AP) — Seattle’s embattled police chief has been dismissed, Mayor Bruce Harrel said Wednesday. Harrell said at a news conference that he met with Police Chief Adrian Diaz on Tuesday and they agreed Diaz should step down. He will work on special assignments for the mayor with the police department, Harrell said. Diaz’s departure […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Disneyland performers’ vote to unionize is certified by federal labor officials

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Character and parade performers at Disneyland in California are officially unionized. Federal labor officials said Wednesday that they’ve certified the results of a three-day election that took place earlier this month in Anaheim. Actors’ Equity Association will represent roughly 1,700 performers and assistants who help bring Disney’s popular characters to life […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Michigan willing to spend millions to restore Flint properties ripped up by pipe replacement

DETROIT (AP) — The state of Michigan said it’s willing to step in and oversee property repairs at 1,900 homes in Flint where water pipes have been inspected or replaced but the grounds remain a mess. The city in March was found in civil contempt by a judge after blowing past deadlines to get the […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Massachusetts fugitive dubbed the ‘bad breath rapist’ captured in California after 16 years at large

DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A fugitive dubbed the “bad breath rapist” has been arrested in the San Francisco Bay Area more than 16 years after he fled following his conviction for sexually assaulting a coworker in Massachusetts, authorities said this week. Tuen Kit Lee was found guilty at a 2007 trial of the kidnapping and […]

5 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

California fugitive sentenced for killing Florida woman in 1984