Arizona man gets life in death of wife who ‘vigorously struggled’ after being buried alive

The couple were living together with their two daughters when Sandra Pagniano went missing.

A Prescott, Arizona, man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole last week after he pleaded guilty to burying his wife alive, according to The Associated Press.

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David Pagniano, 62, pleaded guilty to burying alive Sandra Pagniano, 39, in a hand-dug grave near their home in May 2017 as the two were in the midst of a contentious divorce.

“My office pursued the death penalty in this case because of the horrific circumstances surrounding the abduction and murder of a young mother,” Yavapai County Attorney Dennis McGrane said in a statement issued Friday.

The couple were living together with their two daughters when Sandra Pagniano went missing.

After she was reported missing and following a manhunt, her body was found bound and gagged in packing tape in the hand-dug grave near Prescott.

According to the county medical examiner, she had been buried alive. They said Sandra Pagniano was likely alive for at least 5 minutes after she was buried.

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

While David and Sandra Pagniano were separated, they lived in the same home with their two young daughters, according to Fox News.

Investigators said they found papers that were purportedly written by Sandra Pagniano after she went missing saying she was leaving and giving David Pagniano the vehicles, house and custody of their children.

It was found that David Pagniano had written the letters.

County sheriff’s officials said cellphone evidence showed David Pagniano was in the gravesite area days before his wife went missing and on the night of the kidnapping, according to CBS News.

David Pagniano was sentenced on May 9 to a 16 ½-year prison term for kidnapping, forgery and fraud.

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