A Newhall man who beat his roommate to death with a can of Chinese food was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years to life in prison for second-degree murder, authorities said.
Gabriel John Saraceno, 22, pleaded no contest to killing David Wallace, 56, at the Newhall apartment they shared during the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 1993.
Prosecutors and witnesses said Saraceno, who planned to have his girlfriend move in with him, apparently committed the killing in order to get rid of his roommate. Afterward, he and his friend Paul Rennif Green, who pleaded guilty of voluntary manslaughter and is serving an 11-year sentence, buried Wallace’s body in a shallow grave in Pico Canyon.
Saraceno’s sentence resulted from a plea bargain approved on Jan. 30 in Superior Court in Van Nuys. He could have received a minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.
Deputy Public Defender Kenneth Lezin said Saraceno would be eligible for parole in 13 or 14 years, but his chances of getting out early are not good.
“My understanding is nobody (since 1980) who has been sentenced to 15-to-life has yet been released on parole,” Lezin said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sid Trapp, who said during initial court proceedings he would seek the death penalty against Saraceno, declined to comment Tuesday about the case.
Two girls, then age 17, testified in April, 1993, that Saraceno spoke several times with friends and acquaintances about killing Wallace. One girl said a discussion in early December was lighthearted, but Saraceno appeared to get more serious as the month went on.
“He said he needed to do away with David Wallace because he and (his girlfriend) wanted to live there,” she testified.
Green and Saraceno attacked Wallace after he came home from a New Year’s Eve party at a local American Legion hall and fell asleep on the couch, Green told authorities, according to testimony by Dale Christiansen, a sheriff’s homicide detective. Green, who said he and Saraceno drank 24 to 30 beers in the six hours before the killing, said he hit Wallace with a bread board, but “pulled back” on the blow at the last second and ran into the bathroom.
Saraceno then struck Wallace on the head with a large can of chow mein, killing him, Christiansen said. The pair then buried Wallace. Saraceno reported his roommate missing on Jan. 2.
The teen-age girls who testified at the preliminary hearing provided deputies with information that led to Green’s arrest and he brought officials to the grave, Christiansen testified. Saraceno and his girlfriend were subsequently arrested.
She was later acquitted in juvenile court of being an accessory to murder.