SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown decided Friday to block parole for the killer of a developmentally disabled California man who was buried alive.
Brown decided Friday that 52-year-old David Weidert still is too dangerous to be released, despite the recommendation by a state panel that parole should be granted.
Weidert was sentenced to life in prison for killing 20-year-old Fresno-area resident Michael Morganti in 1980 to cover up a $500 burglary Weidert had committed.
Weidert was initially sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. However, an appeals court reduced his sentence in 1984 to 25 years to life, with the chance of parole, when it struck down two special circumstances.
Weidert is incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad. State parole commissioners concluded in January that he is no longer dangerous, leaving the final decision to Brown.
Brown wrote in his decision that he’s shocked that, even after nearly 35 years, Weidert continues to insist that he did not set out to kill his friend.
“Mr. Weidert’s continued insistence that killing Mr. Morganti was an unplanned and impulsive act minimizes his culpability and shows that he has not yet acknowledged the true horrific nature of his crime,” he wrote.
The victim’s family and five state lawmakers had called on Brown to reverse the parole board decision in what they said was a particularly heinous crime.
“We cannot be more excited,” said Morganti’s sister, Vikki Van Duyne. “It was absolutely the right thing to do protecting society from this guy. He’s too dangerous.”
A call to Weidert’s father, John Weidert of Chowchilla, has not been returned. He had argued that his son has changed in prison and could safely be released.
Prosecutors said Weidert, who was 17 at the time, feared Morganti would testify against him because Morganti had been a lookout during the burglary of a doctor’s office and was cooperating with police.
Weidert and a 16-year-old accomplice lured Morganti from his Clovis apartment, forced him to dig his own grave, beat him with a baseball bat and shovel, and stabbed him. They also choked him with a telephone wire and buried him alive, where he suffocated.
Amador County Sheriff Martin Ryan, president of the state sheriffs’ association, called it “a 45-minute scene of torture and hideous cruelty.”
Associated Press writer Daisy Nguyen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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