Final plea to keep a Clovis murderer in prison

SACRAMENTO, Calif (KFSN) -- A final plea to keep a murderer in prison. Valley leaders and the victim's family are asking Governor Jerry Brown to reverse a decision that would set the convicted killer free.

20-year-old Michael Morganti was stabbed, beaten, and buried alive in 1980. Family members say he had developmental disabilities that made him especially vulnerable. His killer, David Weidert was initially sentenced to life in prison. But an appeals ruling gave him a chance at freedom, and the state parole board recently approved his release.

Everyone who spoke at the capitol made passionate pleas to the governor to reverse the parole board decision. They called David Weidert an evil man and argued he is still a danger to society.

It's been nearly 35 years since Mike Morganti was lured from his Clovis home and tortured for hours in the Fresno County foothills by David Weidert and an accomplice. But time has not eased his family's pain.

The victim's sister, Vikki VanDuyne, said, "I feel him there, I feel like I'm there, and he's all alone wondering why Weidert did this, why are people so mean. And he died with those thoughts, that's our pain. That's our nightmare."

Morganti's sister spoke about the horrific crime during a rally on the steps of the state capitol.

VanDuyne added, "We're all here Mike, I'm sorry we weren't there that day."

Prosecutors say Morganti ultimately suffocated in a grave he was forced to dig, just to keep him from testifying in a burglary case.

Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said, "The man was literally buried alive."

Loved ones, law enforcement leaders, and legislators are now asking Governor Jerry Brown to keep Weidert in prison.

"We are here to ask him to search his soul," said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno. "We are here to ask him to think seriously about the facts that have been presented, and we are here asking him to do justice."

The state parole board approved Weidert's release in January, saying the now 52-year-old does not pose and unreasonable danger to society. His father has also told Action News his son is a different man with genuine remorse and a plan to be a productive citizen outside of prison. But advocates argue the heinous nature of the killing shows Weidert will always be a threat, and they're concerned the only reason he's given for the murder is that he moved a lot as a child.

Christine Ward with the Crime Victim's Assistance Network said, "You should be able to explain before you get released into society why you did this."

Even if Governor Brown reverses the parole board's decision, prosecutors say he would still be up for parole again in a year -- so the fight will continue for Mike Morganti's family.

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