Arizona man gets life for kidnapping wife and burying her alive amid divorce

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun17,2024

YAVAPAI COUNTY, Ariz. (TCD) — A 62-year-old man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the 2017 abduction and killing of his wife, whose remains were found in a hand-dug grave in a remote area.

According to Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane, on May 9, a judge sentenced David Pagniano to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his wife, Sandra Pagniano, after he pleaded guilty. Pagniano was also sentenced to 16 1/2 years for kidnapping, forgery, and fraud schemes. McGrane’s office initially pursued the death penalty before Pagniano’s plea.

On Sunday, May 21, 2017, a family friend reported 39-year-old Sandra Pagniano missing to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. She was last seen several days earlier and failed to show up to a social event, so her friends became worried about her well-being.

Investigators identified David Pagniano as the primary suspect and arrested him on an initial charge of second-degree murder. The couple was reportedly going through a “contentious divorce” at the time, but they lived together on Yaqui Drive and shared two children.

According to McGrane, investigators began a “massive” manhunt and eventually found the victim’s body “bound and gagged in packing tape in a hand-dug grave” in a remote area near Prescott, Arizona. The medical examiner determined Sandra Pagniano “had been buried alive.”

McGrane said “evidence revealed she vigorously struggled while she was in the grave and was likely conscious for up to five minutes after being buried.”

Cellphone data reportedly showed the defendant near the gravesite days before his wife’s death and on the night she disappeared.

According to the attorney’s office, investigators found two notes written by Sandra Pagniano in the divorce proceeding that said she was leaving, and she was giving David Pagniano her cars and home, as well as custody of their children. However, forensic examination reportedly determined the notes were actually written by the defendant.

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Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Arizona man gets life for kidnapping wife and burying her alive amid divorce”
  1. I am horrified by this story. The fact that someone could do such a monstrous act to their own spouse is beyond comprehension. My heart goes out to Sandra Pagniano and her loved ones. May justice be served for this heinous crime.

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