Arizona man sentenced to life in prison after burying his wife alive

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A Prescott, Arizona, man was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to murdering his wife by burying her alive in 2017.

Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGlenn announced that 62-year-old David Michael Paniano was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife, Sandra Paniano, 39, who was buried alive by hand. . A grave near their home.

“My office pursued the death penalty in this case because of the horrific circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and murder of a young mother,” McGlenn said.

According to authorities, Sandra Paniano disappeared in May 2017 during divorce proceedings with her husband.

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David Paniano of Prescott, Arizona, pleaded guilty to murdering his wife by burying her alive.

While the two were separated, they lived in the same house with their two young daughters.

The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the circumstances of Sandra Paniano’s suspicious disappearance, and an extensive search was conducted.

Sandra Paniano’s body was found bound with duct tape and gagged in a hand-dug grave in a secluded area near Prescott.

According to the medical examiner, she had been buried alive.

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Yavapai County Sheriff's Office Vehicle

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Vehicle (Kuzaz)

“Evidence revealed that she was struggling violently in the grave and was likely conscious for up to five minutes after burial,” McGlenn said.

Detectives conducting the investigation found two notes allegedly written by Sandra Paniano that were filed in divorce proceedings after her disappearance.

The letter said Sandra Paniano was moving out and giving custody of her car, house and children to David Paniano.

Forensic experts examined the letter and ultimately determined it was written by Sandra Paniano.

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Additional evidence presented included cell phone data showing David Paniano was near the gravesite where his wife was found in the days before her death and the night she went missing.

McGrane said Paniano pleaded guilty to murder the night before his trial was scheduled to begin, leaving sentencing decisions in the judge’s hands.

David Paniano was sentenced to life in prison for murder and an additional 16 1/2 years for kidnapping, forgery and fraud.


“We hope that a life sentence brings some closure to the victim’s family,” McGlenn said. “I want to make clear that my office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit violent crimes in Yavapai County and pursue the death penalty when appropriate.”