LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown has blocked the parole of a convicted murderer who beat and buried alive a mentally disabled man three decades ago, his office said on Friday.
David Weidert, 52, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 1980 murder of Fresno-area resident Michael Morganti, 20.
A California parole board ruled in January that Weidert was no longer dangerous, leaving the possibility of his parole from the state's overcrowded prison system up to Brown.
Brown reversed the decision before a midnight deadline to decide whether to prevent Weidert from being paroled from the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad.
"Mr. Weidert committed a premeditated, vicious murder of a friend ... As Mr. Morganti pleaded for his life, Mr. Weidert stabbed him, beat him with a bat, strangled him and buried him alive," Brown said in his parole decision. "He currently poses an unreasonable danger to society if released from prison."
Weidert was convicted of beating and stabbing Morganti, who was forced to dig his own grave, and then burying the young man alive, leaving him to suffocate to death.
Prosecutors said Weidert feared the developmentally disabled Morganti would testify against him about his involvement in the burglary of a doctor's office, according to court documents. Morganti was used as a lookout while he committed the crime, according to court records.
The victim's family expressed relief on Friday after urging the governor to keep Weidert in prison, saying the crime was especially heinous.
"The person who murdered my brother is a special kind of evil, a psychopath, someone who should never be set free to kill again," Morganti's sister, Vikki VanDuyne, said in a statement after Brown's decision.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, and Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Paul Tait)