- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The family of a developmentally disabled man who was buried alive had support from a bipartisan group of state lawmakers Wednesday, as they sought to block the parole of his killer in what they termed an especially heinous crime.

David Weidert was sentenced to life in prison for beating, stabbing and strangling 20-year-old Fresno-area resident Michael Morganti in 1980 to hide a $500 burglary.

Weidert was 17 when he and a juvenile accomplice lured Morganti from his Clovis apartment into Weidert’s truck because Weidert feared the victim would testify against him, Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said during a news conference outside the state Capitol.

Morganti had served as a lookout during the burglary of a doctor’s office and was cooperating with police.

The pair forced him to dig his own grave, beat him with a baseball bat and shovel, and stabbed him. They buried him alive and, when he struggled, strangled him with a telephone wire, Smittcamp said. The official cause of death was suffocation after dirt was found in his lungs.

“Weidert silenced him in the most unimaginable way possible,” she said.

Weidert is now 52 and incarcerated at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad.

State parole commissioners concluded Jan. 28 that he is no longer dangerous, leaving Brown to decide by June 26 if he should be freed.

“He is evil, even 35 years later,” said Morganti’s sister, Vikki Van Duyne. “He’s an extra-special brand of psychopath.”

State Sens. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, and Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, were joined by Assemblymen Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and Henry Perea, D-Fresno, as they took turns denouncing what Perea termed a “violent and barbaric murder.”

Weidert’s father said his son is now a changed man.

“I know what the public thinks. I used to think it too,” John Weidert said in a telephone interview Wednesday from his home in Chowchilla.

But he agreed with the board that his son can safely be released.

“We believe in our hearts that he’s a changed man since he was a teenager,” the elder Weidert said. “Our opinion, of course, is that he’s served his time.”

Weidert was originally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. However, an appeals court in 1984 reduced the sentence to 25 years to life, with the chance of parole, when it struck down two special circumstances in the case.

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