Man is sentenced to life without parole for stabbing in Midway adult bookstore

A man who fatally stabbed an employee at a Midway District adult bookstore almost three years ago was sentenced to life in prison on Friday without the possibility of parole.

Shaun Douglas Ward, 42, pleaded guilty last month to first degree murder in connection with the October 2018 death of Diane Spagnuolo, a 65-year-old resident of El Cajon.

On October 29, 2018, Spagnuolo was found dead in the X-Spot adult store on Midway Drive. She had been stabbed several times.

A surveillance camera in the store captured footage of Ward before the murder, which was reported around 1:45 p.m. that day, police said.

Ward was arrested later that night at a San Diego residence.

Ward’s guilty plea in San Diego Superior Court allowed him to avoid the possibility of the death penalty, had he been convicted at trial. He accepted a life sentence without parole when he admitted the charges.

In addition to the murder charge, prosecutors filed allegations of special circumstances of murder in robbery and murder under torture, which made him eligible for capital punishment. There is a statewide moratorium on executions in California as long as Governor Gavin Newsom is in office, but California law still allows prosecutors to pursue the death penalty in some cases.

The district attorney’s office announced in June 2019 that it would seek Ward’s execution if convicted.

At the sentencing hearing on Friday morning, San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan Weber described what she saw in surveillance footage as “one of the most murderous scenes. horrible things that I have ever witnessed as a judge ”.

The judge heard from several members of Spagnuolo’s family, some of whom appeared at the hearing in person, others who spoke from a distance via Zoom, and others whose statements were read in court by Deputy Prosecutor Melissa Vasel, the prosecutor in the case.

Spagnuolo’s daughter Alexis Wylie said she struggled to sum up in just a few statements what her mother meant to her.

“Words of empty comfort mean nothing. She’s been a part of our lives forever and that won’t change, ”said Wylie. “The face around which my whole life has been built, I will never see it again. The voice that would comfort with words until I fall asleep, will never speak.

“It’s empty space now and forever,” Wylie said. “And to the one who robbed us, you will never do it again.”

Those close to Spagnuolo described her as a caring person and spoke of her generosity of spirit.

Alexis’ father Alexander Wylie said a woman the family believed to be homeless showed up at Spagnuolo’s funeral. They learned that she was paying homage to Spagnuolo, who let her into the store on certain evenings to protect herself from the cold.

Spagnuolo’s brother Saverio Spagnolie said she was “the most amazing person I have ever known”, said it was “a blessing” to have her as a sister and it pained him that he, his niece and his other siblings lost her. “For nothing, for absolutely nothing. “

In addition to working at X-Spot for 24 years, family members said she also worked in the Salvation Army, as a seasonal tax preparer and textile processor.

Journalist Sofia Mejías Pascoe contributed to this report.

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