Man Buries Wife Alive, Gets Sentenced

David Michael Pagniano, a 62-year-old Arizona resident, has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife, Sandra Pagniano, who was 39 at the time of her death. The couple, who were parents to two children, were in the midst of a bitter divorce when Sandra was killed in May 2017.

The circumstances surrounding Sandra’s death were particularly gruesome. According to the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office, Sandra was abducted from her home while her children were asleep. She was then bound with packing tape and driven to a remote location where she was buried alive. Evidence suggests that Sandra struggled intensely while in the grave and was likely conscious for up to five minutes after being buried.

Sandra’s body was discovered bound and gagged with packing tape in a hand-dug grave in a remote area north of Prescott, Arizona. Cellphone data indicated that David Pagniano had been in the vicinity days before his wife’s disappearance and on the night of the abduction.

In an attempt to cover up his wife’s disappearance, David Pagniano allegedly forged notes. Investigators found two notes in the divorce proceedings files, supposedly written by Sandra, stating that she was leaving and granting Pagniano her vehicles, house, and custody of their children. However, a forensic examination revealed that Pagniano had written the notes himself.

Sandra was reported missing on May 21, 2017, after she failed to appear at a planned social event. She was last seen on May 19. Her remains were found on May 26, 2017, following David Pagniano’s arrest and charge for her murder. Despite his arrest, Pagniano continued to deny any knowledge of her whereabouts.

County Attorney Dennis McGrane stated that the prosecution sought the death penalty due to the horrific nature of the crime. However, Pagniano chose to plead guilty without a plea deal on the eve of the trial, leaving the sentencing to the judge. Along with the life sentence, Pagniano received an additional sentence of over 16 years for kidnapping, forgery, and fraud schemes.