ARIZONA NEWS

Man sentenced to life in prison for burying wife alive in grave north of Prescott

May 18, 2024, 12:45 PM

David Pagniano....

David Pagniano. (Photo provided by Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.)

(Photo provided by Yavapai County Sheriff's Office.)

PHOENIX — A man from Prescott was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month for murdering his wife.

According to a press release, police in Yavapai County began an investigation after Sandra Pagniano disappeared under suspicious circumstances in 2017 during a contentious divorce from David Pagniano.

Sandra Pagniano’s body was eventually found gagged and bound in packing tape in a shallow grave in a remote area north of Prescott.

A medical examiner determined she had been buried alive and evidence showed she vigorously struggled for up to five minutes while she was conscious in the grave.

Per the press release, cell phone records showed David Pagniano, 62, was in the vicinity of the grave in the days before her death and the night she disappeared.

Detectives recovered two notes that were filed in the divorce case after Sandra’s disappearance, purportedly written by her. The notes said she was leaving and giving David Pagniano her vehicles, house and custody of their children.

A forensic examination of the notes revealed they were written by David Pagniano.

The Yavapai County Attorney’s Office sought the death penalty in this case.

The night before the trial was set to begin, David Pagniano pleaded guilty and let the judge in the case decide his sentence.

In addition to the life sentence, Pagniano also was sentenced to serve an additional 16.5 years in prison for kidnapping, forgery and fraud schemes.

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Man sentenced to life in prison for burying wife alive in grave north of Prescott