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Arizona man learns his fate 7 years after wife was buried alive

Sandra Pagnano's body was found bound with packing tape and gagged in a hand-dug grave, and authorities confirmed she had been buried alive.

YAVAPAI COUNTY, Ariz. — An Arizona man has been sentenced to life in prison without parole in the 2017 death of his wife, who was buried alive in a hand-dug grave near their home while their children were asleep, according to authorities.

Seven years after the murder, David Pagnano decided to plead guilty before his trial even began, allowing the judge to set the sentence without a plea deal.

Pagnano, 62, was sentenced May 9 to 16 1/2 years in prison for kidnapping, forgery and fraud. Yavapai County Prosecutor's Office.

County Attorney Dennis McGrane said in a statement that he sought the death penalty because of the “horrific circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and murder” of Sandra Pagnano.

“Sandra was abducted from her home while her children were sleeping nearby, bound with duct tape, driven to a secluded location and buried alive,” Mr McGrane said. “Evidence indicates she struggled violently in the grave and was conscious for approximately five minutes after burial.”


Authorities say 39-year-old Sandra Pagnano disappeared in May 2017 while in the midst of divorce proceedings from her husband.

She and David Pagnano are separated but still live in the same house with their two young daughters.

Sandra Pagnano's body was found bound with duct tape and gagged in a rural cemetery north of Prescott, and the county coroner's office confirmed she had been buried alive.

County sheriff's office officials said cellphone evidence showed David Pagnano was near the cemetery several days before his wife disappeared and on the night of the kidnapping.

Detectives found two notes purportedly written by Sandra Pagnano herself that were filed in her divorce proceedings after her disappearance.

The note said she was breaking up with David Pagnano and giving him her car, her house and custody of her children.

But authorities said forensic testing of the note determined it was written by David Pagnano.

A grand jury indicted him on first-degree murder charges after his wife's body was found in a secluded area 10 miles northwest of the couple's home near Prescott in north-central Arizona.

“Hopefully a life sentence will bring some closure to the victim's family,” McGrane said.

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