When Sandra Pagniano went missing on Friday, May 19, her friends and family knew that something was wrong. Sandra had two young children, she would never abandon them.
After filing a missing person report with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO), her friends distributed a poster online, hoping for information. But within a few days, YCSO detectives developed information that Sandra may have been killed by her husband, David Pagniano.
He was arrested on May 24, 2017 and charged with 2nd Degree murder, and held on a $2 million bond, although her body had not been found at that time.
Around noon on May 26, Sandra’s body was found, buried in a wash, about 10 miles away from her home. The effort involved a large number of YCSO personnel and volunteers from the Yavapai County Search and Rescue Team (YCSRT).
According to YCSO Spokesperson Dwight D’Evelyn, based on evidence gathered during the investigation, “...search teams focused on several large land areas north west of the victim’s home. The suspect continued to deny any knowledge of her whereabouts. As a result, ground search efforts and flyovers by the Rescue 1 helicopter in these target areas was based solely on evidence and investigative work by YCSO detectives.”
When the search teams were deployed to a remote section of land set back off Fair Oaks Road, several miles west of Williamson Valley Road, they did a grid search of the area. "a YCSRT member of the Search Dog Unit noticed apparent man made tool marks in the sandy soil of a dry riverbed and deployed his cadaver trained detection K9 over the site. The dog alerted and detectives were notified. After examining the soil, detectives began slowly digging until Sandra’s body was discovered around noon… The area around the site was secured and evidence technicians were called in to assist with the dig. As part of the forensic work, any soil/sand around her body was carefully removed and sifted for evidence by detectives.”
Burial site of Sandra Pagniano.
Sheriff Mascher thanks the volunteers.
On Wednesday, May 31, a Grand Jury returned an indictment of 1st Degree Murder against David Pagniano.
Further details are being withheld while detectives continue to investigate.
"YCSO thanks all who called regarding this case and those with concern for Sandra’s children. They are in good care,” D’Evelyn said. "We again express our condolences to Sandra’s family and friends on her tragic death.”