Bradford R. Fenocchio
PLACER COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
10810 Justice Center Drive, Suite 240
Roseville, California 95678
For Immediate Release
Date: January 12, 2010
Public Information Officer
Assistant District Attorney
BUZZETTA WITHDRAWS INSANITY PLEA; AGREES TO SERVE
26-YEARS-TO-LIFE IN PRISON FOR FIRST-DEGREE MURDER
A 22-year-old Roseville man who was convicted by a Placer County trial jury last week of premeditated murder has accepted a prosecutor’s offer that will result in his being sentenced to a 26 years to life in a state prison.
David Harrison Buzzetta withdrew his insanity plea today while in the second phase of his trial in which the Superior Court jury was being asked to determine whether he was sane when he bludgeoned his stepfather, Paul Bonomo, to death with a baseball bat in 2007.
Had the jury found him to be insane when he committed the murder, Buzzetta was likely to be sent to a state hospital for an indeterminate period.
In exchange for dropping his insanity plea, Buzzetta agreed to serve 26 years to life in prison and would be eligible to apply for parole in 23 years.
He will not be subject to a potential sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole or to being sent to a state hospital if he’d been deemed insane by the jury.
A key part of the agreement is that the District Attorney’s Office will ask the court to dismiss a special circumstance that he was lying in wait when he killed Bonomo.
The jury found the lying-in-wait circumstance to be true when it returned its verdict of first-degree murder against Buzzetta last Thursday. That finding exposed Buzzetta to a life sentence without possibility of parole.
A second finding that Buzzetta used a deadly weapon – the bat – in the commission of the crime added a year to the sentence.
Steve Dragland, the District Attorney’s felony unit supervisor, said the offer to drop the lying-in-wait circumstance was made by prosecutor Tracy Lunardi to Buzzetta and his lawyer on Monday, when the jury had listened to the first day of the trial’s sanity phase.
During the Monday session, the defense attorney called two psychologists to the witness stand and they testified, based on prior interviews with Buzzetta, that the defendant had suffered various forms of abuse from his stepfather and mother as he was growing up.
Dragland said Buzzetta had denied in psychologists’ reports that he’d been abused by either of the parents. However, the defense psychologists believed otherwise, Dragland said.
“The defense psychologists came to some conclusions that were bizarre and imaginary,” he said. “Mr. Buzzetta was not insane nor was there any evidence that he was abused by his parents.”
The trial judge, Mark S. Curry, remarked in open court after today’s agreement was announced that “there was evidence that Mr. Buzzetta was sane at the time of the crime.”
The prosecution was prepared to call a psychiatrist to the stand during the sanity phase to refute the defense witnesses and to testify that the defendant was malingering, Dragland said.
However, the District Attorney’s Office came up with the offer of 26-years-to-life in prison to bring closure to the victim’s family.
“I think that everybody involved is glad that the case ended this way,” Dragland said. “Instead of no possibility of parole, the defendant now has a chance to go before a parole board in 23 years. His fate will depend on his conduct in prison.”
During trial, Lunardi, the prosecutor, told the jury in closing statements that Buzzetta resented his stepfather for having previously kicked him out of the house for drug use and suspicion of stealing jewelry from the home.
Following a relative’s birthday party on March 18, 2007, Bonomo, who had separated from Buzzetta’s mother, allowed his stepson, then 19, to stay at his home for the night so that he wouldn’t have to find another place to sleep, Lunardi said.
Bonomo’s body was discovered alone in the home the following day at about 5:30 p.m. and Buzzetta was arrested by police shortly after as he walked up to the house.
Buzzetta’s attorney, Vicki Cody, contended that the defendant was innocent and that an absence of any blood spattering on his clothing or shoes was evidence that he did not commit the killing.
When the sanity phase of the trial began, Cody told the jury that Buzzetta heard voices in his head and that certain code words and numbers triggered an urge to kill Bonomo.
Buzzetta remains in custody in the Placer County Jail in Auburn. Judge Curry has ordered him to return for the sentencing on Feb. 26.