FRESNO, Calif. -- Despite the pleas of his congressman, 19-year-old David Weidert Tuesday was sentenced to life without possibility of parole for the torture murder of a young mentally retarded man.
Superior Court Judge Robert Martin rejected a defense motion to drop the special circumstances portion of Weidert's murder conviction which would have allowed the possibility of parole after 16 years and four months.
Weidert was convicted of killing Mike Morganti, 20, in November 1980, to prevent him from testifying in a separate burglary case against Weidert. The victim was taken to a mountain area, forced to dig his own grave, stabbed and battered with a baseball bat.
Another youth involved in the murder, testifying as a prosecution witness, said the victim was still alive when buried and reached up through the earth, grasping at Weidert.
Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif. had written a letter to the probation office urging leniency for young Weidert.
Weidert's father, John Weidert, is the executive director of California Westside Farmers, an agribusiness group which has made substantial contributions to past Coelho political campaigns.
Coelho said he had been a friend of the Weidert family for 15 years and believed the younger Weidert could be rehabilitated.
The victim's mother, Kathryn Van Duyne, attacked Coelho in a public letter noting 'it is with disgust and anger that I write to you, that you saw fit to ask... leniency.... for the defendant who brutally beat with a baseball bat, stabbed and buried alive my son.'
'Life without possibility of parole (is) a far more generous sentence than my son was allowed by Mr. Weidert,' she wrote.