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Buzzetta murder case goes to the jury

By: Eric Laughlin The Press Tribune
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The Roseville man accused of bludgeoning to death his stepfather with a baseball bat nearly three years ago must now wait for a Placer County jury to decide his fate. David Harrison Buzzetta, 22, faces life in prison if convicted of a charge of first-degree murder with special circumstances that include lying in wait. During closing statements Monday in a trial that lasted nearly a month, prosecutor Tracy Lunardi delivered her final argument to jurors that Buzzetta acted with malice when he fatally attacked Paul Bonomo at his Granada Pass Drive home in Roseville on the night of March 18, 2007. According to forensic data, the 43 year-old was struck some 20 times before succumbing to wounds sustained by the aluminum bat. “He offered the defendant a roof over his head,” Lunardi argued, “but his act of kindness was rewarded with murder. Paul Bonomo was punished for his trust in the defendant.” In the hours leading up to the murder, Buzzetta had attended a family birthday party, during which time his mother, Eileen Bonomo, had refused his request to stay at her home. She then urged Paul Bonomo, who she had previously separated from, to take him in for the night. He agreed and the next afternoon Paul Bonomo’s body was discovered by Eileen and her boyfriend Brian Stafford. Though Buzzetta never admitted to investigators that he killed the man who had raised him since he was 3, he did make what would turn out to be incriminating statements following his March 19, 2007 arrest. When Eileen Bonomo spoke to her son during a recorded jail visit, she told him, “David, you took a life. You took Dad’s life.” Buzzetta is then heard saying, “I know mom, I was crying about it.” He went on to say, “you know I just did it for you.” From jail, Buzzetta also wrote letters to his grandmother claiming he felt “guilty for what I did,” and “I was out of my mind. I thought everyone wanted me to do what I did.” But when it was her turn to address the jury, deputy public defender Vicki Cody, who's claimed that her client is not guilty, claimed such statements were taken out of context and suggested that Eileen Bonomo was trying to push a confession out of her son. “In the tape, you clearly have Eileen Bonomo manipulating David,” Cody said. “He’s clearly confused … and he’s trying to say what she wants to hear.” Cody also attempted to discredit the entire testimony of Eileen and boyfriend Stafford by calling them liars. The defense attorney accused them both of changing their stories to better suit the prosecution. “They had also started having an affair a year prior (to the murder) and failed to tell that to the police,” Cody claimed. “That is a lie.” Outside the courtroom, tears poured down the face of an emotional Eileen Bonomo, as Stafford and another family member comforted her. “She’s completely lying,” she said of the defense attorney. “I don’t want people to think that’s the truth because it’s not.” “This is all very difficult,” she continued. “I’m caught in the middle. I love my son but I also loved Paul.” Cody additionally, in her closing remarks, criticized the efforts by officers who responded to the crime scene. She said their mismanagement led to blurring the time of death, which she asserts is crucial to the case. Prosecutor Lunardi downplayed such an argument and told the jury to focus on the overwhelming evidence against Buzzetta. She likened Cody’s argument to a group of blind men evaluating an elephant with their hands and each only getting a partial picture of the animal’s anatomy. Toward the end of Lunardi’s remarks, she reminded jurors of testimony by forensic examiners that suggested the killer waited five-20 minutes following an initial attack on Bonomo to return to deliver the fatal blows. “(Buzzetta’s) intent was not to wound him and not to injure him,” she said. “He wanted Paul Bonomo dead.” If the jury returns with a first-degree murder conviction, Buzzetta will avoid the death penalty, but likely spend the rest of his life behind bars. Superior Court Judge Mark Curry told the 12 men and women panel that they also have the option to return a second-degree murder verdict, which would carry a term of 15 years to life.