A Glendale man convicted last month of murdering his wife and trying to cover up the crime by staging a burglary of their home was sentenced Monday to 27 years to life in prison.
Daniel J. Montecalvo's face reddened, but he sat motionless as Pasadena Superior Court Judge Jack Tso outlined the sentence and told him that the evidence that led to his first-degree murder conviction was overwhelming.
Montecalvo, 49, was found guilty Nov. 5 of fatally wounding his wife, Carol, in 1988 despite his claim that a burglar had shot her after being discovered ransacking their Burbank home.
Prosecutors said Montecalvo, who moved to Glendale after the murder, shot himself in the back with a small-caliber pistol to make it seem as though the burglar had also attacked him.
Montecalvo, a convicted bank robber, killed his 43-year-old wife to collect on her $600,000 insurance policy in order to settle gambling debts, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Cohen, who prosecuted the case.
At his sentencing Monday, Montecalvo, who has acted as his own attorney throughout the trial, denied the allegations and accused Cohen of misleading the jurors and the judge.
He also said the Police Department focused on him as the murder suspect after he sued the department for negligence, charging that his wife, a Pacific Bell supervisor, died of her wounds because the officers did not respond fast enough to an emergency call.
"This is a frame-up," said Montecalvo. "Everything (Cohen) has said has been unfair. He has lied to the court."
In a nearly hourlong statement before he was sentenced, Montecalvo asked Tso for a retrial on the grounds that new evidence had surfaced that would clear his name.
"The only way I can grant a retrial is if it can be demonstrated that you have not had a fair trial," said Tso. "There is substantial evidence to show you are guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The evidence has been overwhelming."
Prosecutors admitted that most of the evidence against Montecalvo was circumstantial. There were no eyewitnesses to the slaying, and a murder weapon was never recovered.
The case was so difficult to assemble, prosecutors said, they waited nearly two years before charging Montecalvo of murder last March 14.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Penny Schneider, the original prosecutor, sought later to have the murder charge dropped, but was overruled by her superiors. She was replaced by Cohen.
Eighty-five witnesses, 163 exhibits and 8,600 pages of investigative reports painted Montecalvo as a bar-hopping womanizer and a habitual gambler desperate to pay off his gambling debts.