Fate of Clovis man's convicted killer now in governor's hands

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Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether David Weidert, 52, should remain in prison or be allowed back into society. (KFSN)

The fate of a convicted killer now lies in Gov. Jerry Brown's hands. Brown will decide whether 52-year-old David Weidert should remain in prison or be allowed back into society.

Weidert killed a developmentally disabled Clovis man back in 1980. He's since been granted parole. The case has gained statewide attention, and local lawmakers have demanded that the state keep Weidert in custody.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims called it a "barbaric" crime and says this case is the reason offenders are sentenced to life in prison. But the parole board says he's been rehabilitated and is fit for society.

Crime scene video from 1980 shows Fresno County investigators unearthing a shallow grave and forever changing the memory the Morganti family has of 20-year-old Michael. The sheriff called the case one of the most heinous of her career. "He was tortured, he was tied up, he was forced to dig his own grave, and he was beaten with a bat and then buried alive," she said.

Weidert was sentenced to life in prison for the crime. Decades passed, but then policy and laws changed, which allowed a parole board to grant him freedom. Morganti's family has dropped everything, working tirelessly to keep Weidert in custody. There's been letters from the sheriff, district attorney and State Sheriffs' Association. All of it now hinges on the governor.

Morganti's sister Vikki VanDuyne told Action News via Skype, "I keep going back and forth between really, really upset and angry, and just unbelievably sad." Her brother Michael was killed because Weidert wanted to hide a burglary. She says her brother was sweet, innocent and full of love. His disabilities shortened the age gap between them, and VanDuyne now says her mission goes beyond David Weidert. "I'm not going away; I'm deciding what the next steps are," she said.

She's working with lawyers, legislators and victim's advocates, trying to change the system so that other families don't go through what she and her family have faced over the decades. But for now, she's waiting on Brown's signature, desperately hoping for the outcome she's been wanting. VanDuyne said, "It's easy to be happy, it's harder to handle the sadness and just all of the years that we've been fighting kind of coming to an end on that chapter."

The governor could make the decision at any minute. He can overturn the parole board's recommendation, he can keep Weidert in custody, or he can take no action. If he does nothing at all, Weidert will be a free man.
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