Gov. Jerry Brown twice blocked parole for the killer of a developmentally disabled Fresno man who was buried alive in 1980.
Now the state Parole Board again has granted a parole date for David Weidert, who murdered 20-year-old Michael Morganti to cover up a $500 burglary Weidert committed.
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp, along with members of the victim’s family, are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to block Weidert’s release.
— Fresno County DA Lisa Smittcamp
December Decision Expected
Newsom is expected to decide early next month whether to overturn — as Brown did — the Parole Board’s decision to free Weidert.
In a letter to the governor, Smittcamp stated that Weidert continues to pose “an unreasonable risk of danger to the safety of the community” and should remain in prison serving his life sentence.
Smittcamp also spoke in the letter about evidence indicating Weidert is playing the Parole Board with his answers. She wrote that Weidert had tailored his answers to capitalize on legislation affecting parole decisions, such as Senate Bill 261.
The bill requires the board to consider the hallmark features of youth crime, including impulsivity. During parole suitability hearings, Weidert has stated that the murder was an impulsive act.
Testimony at trial, however, indicated that Morganti’s murder was planned and the deadly attack took about 45 minutes.
How Weidert Murdered Morganti
Weidert, who was 17 at the time, and an accomplice drove Morganti to the foothills outside of Clovis. Suspecting something bad was about to happen to him, Morganti pleaded for his life and promised not to testify against Weidert.
However, Weidert ordered his victim to dig a hole and get in it. When Morganti complied, they struck him in the head with a baseball bat at least five times — critically injuring him.
In her letter to Newsom, the district attorney spells out the bone-chilling details of Morganti’s last living moments and Weidert’s sadistic acts.
“Weidert next stabbed Michael in the back near his spine, before he and his accomplice covered Michael with dirt. Barely clinging to life, Michael reached his hand from beneath the dirt covering his grave and grabbed Weidert’s leg. Michael pulled his head and upper torso above the dirt, but Weidert forced his head back down. Then Weidert and his accomplice tried to strangle Michael with the wire they had used to bind his hands behind his back.
“As Michael hopelessly tried to resist, inmate Weidert said, ‘You son of a bitch, die, die. This son of a bitch won’t die.”
Morganti Buried Alive and Died of Suffocation
According to the autopsy report, Morganti eventually died from suffocation — not from being strangled with wire but from the dirt in his mouth and lungs.
Smittcamp also opposed Weidert’s parole in 2015 and 2018. This is what she wrote to Brown in 2015:
“This inmate, who had no substance abuse issues, who had no issues of mental impairment, who had a job, a truck, an apartment, who had friends, who had a family, who did not kill out of jealousy or true emotional disability … but who killed purely to permanently silence a witness to a simple burglary, should not be entitled to parole consideration using the passage of time as a major factor to his benefit.”