Parole granted for man who buried California victim alive

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has authorized the release of a killer who served four decades in prison for the murder of a developmentally disabled Californian who was buried alive, officials said Monday.

Newsom took no action last Friday regarding the latest National Parole Board decision granting parole to David Weidert, his office said on Monday, meaning Weidert, 58, is now eligible for release.

Weidert was given a life sentence for killing 20-year-old Fresno-area resident Michael Morganti in 1980 to cover a burglary for $ 500.

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A photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation shows convicted murderer David Weidert on January 18, 2017 (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via AP)

Newsom blocked Weidert’s parole last year, saying he “currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if he is released from prison at that time.” Then-Gov. Jerry Brown also reversed the release recommendations for Weidert in 2016 and 2018.

Newsom this year accepted the findings of the Parole Hearings Board, “which determined he did not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety,” his office said Monday without further details.

Morganti’s sister Vikki Van Duyne said she was stunned and distraught after attending 11 parole hearings over the years to oppose Weidert’s release.

“I didn’t think the governor would think things had changed in 13 months from when he said no last time, because I haven’t seen anything change,” she said of the comment. of Newsom’s decision.

Van Duyne believes Weidert is still dangerous and has said she will work to change the legal standard for parole.

“You are doing very bad things, we have to have a way to protect society and to keep people in,” Van Duyne said.

Parole Board members weighed Weidert’s youthful immaturity and lack of criminal record at the time and decades of good behavior in prison against what they called “an incredibly gruesome, violent and gruesome murder “by deciding he was no longer a risk, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Fresno County Prosecutor Lisa Smittcamp accused the governor of complying with “people who want to end jail.”

Newsom, a Democrat, faces a recall election on September 14, and some of his Republican opponents have criticized the focus on rehabilitating prisoners amid a 31% increase in homicides in California last year during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of them, businessman John Cox, said the decision “sickens me” and Weidert “should never see the light of day again”.

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Republican MP Jim Patterson, who has lobbied Weidert’s release for years, accused Newsom of siding with the criminals: “The man who tortured and murdered mentally handicapped young man is freed while his family is forced to relive the horror. “

Morganti had served as a lookout when Weidert committed the heist.

Weidert, who was 17 at the time, killed Morganti after speaking to law enforcement, prosecutors said previously.

Weidert and a 16-year-old accomplice then lured Morganti into a car and took him to a secluded location and forced him to dig his own grave. They beat him with a baseball bat and shovel, stabbed him with a knife, and strangled him with a telephone wire.

Morganti eventually suffocated after being buried alive.

Weidert was a young offender with “an impeccable criminal record” and four psychological assessments indicating that he would be at little risk if released, said his lawyer, Charles Carbone.

“Mr. Weidert understands the gravity of his crime and the continuing gravity of the consequences for the victim and the victim’s family. He is someone who has always emphasized his remorse and acceptance of responsibility,” Carbon said.

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He added: “This is about promoting public safety, and Mr. Weidert has made a living following a very long and arduous path to rehabilitation.”


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